On March 1, 2013, Robert Ingersoll drove to Arlene's Flowers in Richland. He planned to place an order for a floral arrangement for a very special occasion - his upcoming wedding. Ingersoll had been a longtime customer of Arlene's Flowers, so the refusal by the shop's owner, Barronelle Stutzman, to provide the wedding flowers due to her "relationship with Jesus Christ" stunned him and his husband-to-be Curt Freed.
Stutzman's action triggered two years of litigation that generated press coverage nationwide, from Fox News to the National Law Journal. More importantly, it led to an historically significant decision as Washington considered whether honestly held religious convictions could trump the rights of LGBT citizens to be free from discrimination in the marketplace.
And it ultimately led to my decision to grant the 2015 KCBA President's Award to the team of attorneys who represented Ingersoll and Freed, and to the lawyers from the Washington Attorney General's Office who represented the State in asserting that Stutzman's denial of service violated the Consumer Protection Act.
Few of the prerogatives of serving as KCBA's president during the past year have given me as much pause as the privilege of selecting the recipients of this award. The qualifications for the other awards to be presented at KCBA's annual dinner are described in the Association's policies. By contrast, the President's Award is given at the discretion of the president. My review of the recipients chosen by other presidents over the last 20 years revealed a roster that is as varied as it is distinguished.
During the course of this year, I have had the pleasure of meeting members from all walks of the profession who have devoted their considerable talents to serving our greater community, advancing the mission of KCBA, working to bring justice to some of our most marginalized citizens and advancing important public policy initiatives. Each of them has earned my admiration and is deserving of recognition.
But with the backdrop of arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on whether denying same-sex couples the right to marry is constitutional, it was the compelling (and more than a little sad) image of Ingersoll walking out of Arlene's Flowers empty-handed and dejected that made the decision for me.
Ultimately, the only hesitance I had in my decision stemmed from the fact that a number of the individual recipients of this award are from my own firm. However, I hope that KCBA members will recognize that the motivation for this award was my desire to recognize the efforts of some extraordinary attorneys, and not to advance the interests of my firm.
The individual winners of the 2015 President's Award include the following attorneys who represented Ingersoll and Freed:
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