Law & the Courts

Washington Supreme Court Upholds Ruling against Florist Who Refused to Serve Same-Sex Wedding

(Herwig Prammer/Reuters)

The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday upheld its previous ruling that a florist’s refusal to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, after Washington’s high court ruled that she illegally discriminated against a gay couple who wanted to purchase flowers from her shop, Arlene’s Flowers. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal, but ordered Washington’s Supreme Court to review the original decision to determine whether it was motivated by “religious animus.”

After a review, the justices of the Washington court found that they “did not act with religious animus when they ruled that the florist and her corporation violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination . . . by declining to sell wedding flowers to a gay couple, and they did not act with religious animus when they ruled that such discrimination is not privileged or excused by the United States Constitution or the Washington Constitution.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian group representing Stutzman, said Thursday that it will once again ask the Supreme Court to consider the case.

“Barronelle serves all customers; she simply declines to celebrate or participate in sacred events that violate her deeply held beliefs,” John Bursch, the vice president of appellate advocacy at ADF, said in a statement. “Despite that, the state of Washington has been openly hostile toward Barronelle’s religious beliefs about marriage, and now the Washington Supreme Court has given the state a pass. We look forward to taking Barronelle’s case back to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Bursch’s emphasis on his client’s willingness to serve gay customers in general but not in connection with their weddings resembles the argument made by attorneys representing Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who prevailed last year in his suit against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Writing the opinion for the 7–2 majority in that case, Justice Anthony Kennedy found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission exhibited hostility to Phillips’ Christian religion in ruling that Phillips violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

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