What’s good for the baker may also be good for the florist, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The highest court vacated a state ruling Monday that found Barronelle Stutzman, the 73-year-old owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, violated state law by refusing to service a same-sex wedding ceremony.
The Washington Supreme Court will now reconsider the case in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 4 ruling, which found the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had discriminated against Christian baker Jack Phillips by forcing him to participate in a same-sex marriage by baking and decorating a wedding cake.
Kristen Waggoner, the lawyer who argued Mr. Phillips’ case before the U.S. Supreme Court and Ms. Stutzman’s case before the Washington Supreme Court, said the cases have much in common.
“Barronelle, like Jack, serves all customers but declines to create custom art that expresses messages or celebrates events in conflict with her deeply held religious beliefs,” said Ms. Waggoner, a senior vice president at the Alliance Defending Freedom. “The Washington attorney general’s efforts to punish her because he dislikes her beliefs about marriage are as impermissible as Colorado’s attempt to punish Jack.”
Ms. Stutzman was sued by Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll in 2013. Mr. Ingersoll had been a customer at her store for nearly 10 years, and Ms. Stutzman said she considered him a friend.
The florist said she knew Mr. Ingersoll was gay but she never refused to provide him any service before his request that she participate in his same-sex wedding ceremony.
Ms. Stutzman said she referred Mr. Ingersoll to several other florists in the area and hugged him before he left.
“Rob was my customer and friend for over nine years,” Ms. Stutzman said in a previous statement. “I knew he was gay, and it was never an issue. I serve everyone. He enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him. I would gladly serve Rob if he were to come back to my shop today.”
James Esseks, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the gay couple, said there is no reason to think the outcome of the florist’s case will change, arguing that the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling was decided on narrow grounds.
“The constitutional problem that the Supreme Court found in the bakery case — anti-religious bias by a government adjudicator — is simply not present in the flower shop case,” Mr. Esseks wrote Monday on the ACLU’s website. “A ruling for the couple in Arlene’s Flowers on remand would underscore that the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop does not provide a license to discriminate against LGBT people or against anyone else protected by nondiscrimination laws.”
How the Arlene’s Flowers case is decided could shed some light on the scope of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.
In that case, the highest court ruled 7-2 that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with “impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.”
“In that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court denounced government hostility toward the religious beliefs about marriage held by creative professionals like Jack and Barronelle,” Ms. Waggoner said. “The state of Washington, acting through its attorney general, has shown similar hostility here.”
Joan Mannix, special counsel at the Thomas More Society, said the “proceedings in the courts of Washington were tainted with the same kind of intolerance and disrespect for the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion as those that occurred in Colorado.”
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