You'll remember on Thursday, we had the news that a batch of conservative state senators proposed legislation that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay couples for religious reasons. The bill is an obvious attempt to defend Richland flower shop owner Barronelle Stutzman, who's currently being sued by the Washington State Attorney General for violating the consumer protection act after she refused to serve a gay couple that was getting married.
On Friday, when bouquets of identical flowers showed up on the desks of the five female senators—Republican Sens. Barbara Bailey (R-10), Sharon Brown (R-8), Janea Holmquist Newbry (R-13), Linda Evans Parlette (R-12), and Ann Rivers (R-18)—who signed on to the legislation, Democrats believed it wasn't a coincidence.
A spokesman for the GOP senators, Booker Stallworth, told PubliCola that Brown told him the flowers were not related to the bill: "It was a gift from one female member to all the other female members. The cards that are attached just say, 'Nice working with you this year.'"
Stallworth added that liberal Democratic Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33) had flowers on her desk too, adding: "I haven't checked yet, but I doubt she is a sponsor."
However, Sen. Keiser—who definitely ins't a co-sponsor of the legislation—contradicts Stallworth's account and says the flowers on her desk were a gift from a friend that she got last Monday.
And a spot check with other female senators shows that they did not receive any flowers.
Sen. Brown, the main sponsor of the bill, told one Democratic senator that the flowers were sent as a "thanks for the bill" explaining to the Democrat that she [Brown] was "not a bigot," according to a Democratic account.
The Democrats won't tell me who that senator is, saying only that it's a "vocal" opponent of the bill. Sen. Ed Murray (D-43) authored the 2006 anti-discrimination bill protecting gays that Brown's bill rolls back; Murray also authored the gay marriage bill. However, Murray tells PubliCola he is not the Democratic senator who talked to Brown on Friday.
The bouquet (in the picture at the top of the post) to the far right is on Sen. Pam Roach's (R-31) desk. Roach is not a co-sponsor of the bill, but her bouquet is not similar to the others.
There are six male Republican co-sponsors. They, evidently, didn't get any flowers yesterday.
Stutzman, the owner of the flower shop at the center of the case, Arlene's Flowers & Gifts in Richland, tells PubliCola "no sir" she did not send any flowers to the legislators.