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A small-town florist ‘refused’ to make bouquets for a gay wedding. So the town decided to end discrimination once and for all

Vic Parsons July 26, 2020
After local florist refuses gay wedding, town decides to end discrimination

View of Creek Street in Ketchikan, Southeast Alaska, USA. (Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A small Alaskan city has unanimously voted for a new law protecting LGBT+ people from discrimination after a local florist allegedly refused to make the wedding bouquets for a gay couple.

Ketchikan, population 8,289, is a seaside city on Alaska’s southeastern coast popular with passing cruise ships.

It’s known for its wildlife – which includes bears, wolves and eagles – and, as of July 16, for being the fourth Alaskan city to pass sweeping non-discrimination law for its LGBT+ residents.

The local law – which was passed unanimously, with all seven of the city council’s members in favour – came about after a florist, Heavenly Creations, allegedly refused to take an order for a same-sex wedding.

After a high-profile demonstration outside Heavenly Creations, the city-wide ordinance was proposed.

It follows in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s historic ruling that made it illegal to fire workers for being gay or transgender – and goes several steps further, by also banning discrimination against LGBT+ people in housing or public businesses.

Florist denies discriminating, but says same-sex marriage ‘violates God’s truth’.

Heather Dalin, the owner of Heavenly Creations, denies discriminating against a same-sex couple.

“I have personally made and delivered bouquets to the members of LBGTQ community on numerous occasions,” she said at a July 2 council meeting. “We have not, and do not discriminate.”

But she went on to clarify that forcing her to make bouquets for LGBT+ weddings would violate her own right to exercise her religious beliefs.

“When it comes to the holy sacrament of marriage, God’s word is clear,” she said, K Too reported.

“Marriage is one of the seven sacraments where the Lord Jesus Christ is present. For you to pass an unnecessary ordinance to try and force myself to participate in a ceremony that violates not only God’s holy truth, but also strips me of my rights as an American tax-paying, law-abiding citizen is unreasonable.”

After hearing her objections, the Ketchikan city council passed the new non-discrimination laws anyway.

Museum curator Ryan McHale also testified at the meeting, arguing that religion has long been used to justify discrimination.

“Much like their pro-slavery predecessors, segregationists during the Jim Crow era cited scripture as justification for maintaining racial segregation and inequality,” McHale said.

“There is little that distinguishes the religious freedom claim of today from those of the segregationists who argued that they should not be forced to hire, serve or associate with African Americans or Native Americans.”

The new law will come into effect in mid-August, when Ketchikan will join the Alaskan cities of Sitka, Juneau and Anchorage in having laws to protect its LGBT+ residents.

More: Alaska, Discrimination, Jim Crow, ketchikan, US Supreme Court

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