Crowds turn out to protest outside Ketchikan shop that reportedly refused service for same-sex wedding

Tommy Varela, left, Varela’s childhood teacher Valerie Brooks, center, and Varela’s fiance, Stephen Kossak, right, turned out to rally Friday. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

More than 100 people protested Friday outside a Ketchikan flower shop that reportedly refused to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding.

Tommy Varela is planning to marry fiance Stephen Kossak in Ketchikan this summer. He said flower shop Heavenly Creations declined to take his mother’s flower order for Varela’s August 1 wedding.

“This is a demonstration of love — that love is okay,” Varela told KRBD at the rally. “More importantly, we have an anti protester with a sign that says it’s okay to be Christian. There are Christians on our side standing here right now. No one is saying it’s not okay to be Christian. What we’re saying is it’s not okay to dehumanize and devalue LGBTQ people’s life.”

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Varela grew up in Ketchikan, later moving to Chicago. He says he’s planning to return to Southeast Alaska after he’s married. He says his mother ended up ordering flowers from a national chain.

Heavenly Creations owner Heather Dalin declined comment Friday, citing legal advice. But the store was busy with customers.

Among them was Robin Reigard. As she exited with a white flower, she said she supports a business owner’s right to turn away customers.

“I believe that we have a great nation that gives us the right to choose — free will choice,” Reigard said. “I believe the Bible gives the right free will choice. They have a right to do that. It’s their free will choice.”

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Two counter-protestors also turned up in support of the flower business.

The rally was lively but peaceful. Around half of the demonstrators wore masks, though social distancing was not possible in the crowd.