Donations top $100k for Washington florist who refused to serve gay wedding

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Supporters have raised more than $100,000 to pay the legal fees of a Washington state florist who was sued for refusing to sell a gay couple flowers for their wedding because of her religious beliefs, an online donation site said on Monday.

Friends of Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers in the southeastern city of Richland, launched the donation drive on the site last month, saying the money would also be used to help protect her small business.

"The 70-year-old grandmother may lose her business, her home, and her savings - because she stood for her faith, she could lose everything she owns," the site said.

Stutzman refused to provide flowers for the 2013 wedding of her long-time customers, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, saying the same-sex nuptials went against her Southern Baptist faith.

Stutzman referred the couple to another florist who provided the arrangements for the ceremony.

Both the couple and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Stutzman, saying her refusal to do business with the couple on the basis of their sexual orientation was illegal.

In March, a Benton County judge fined Stutzman $1,000 plus $1 for court costs after ruling that she had violated state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws.

The couple is also seeking damages and fees, court records show.

Stutzman in February declined a settlement offer from the attorney general that would have ended future litigation, saying she was protecting her right to free exercise of religion.

The crowd-funding effort for Stutzman comes as a similar online donation drive last week netted more than $840,000 for an Indiana pizza shop that came under intense criticism after one of its owners said she would not cater a gay wedding because of her religious beliefs.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)