Metro Weekly

Washington florist who refused service to gays appeals to Supreme Court

Barronelle Stutzman claims Washington's nondiscrimination law violates her religious conscience

Floral bouquets – Photo: Ms angie gray, via Wikimedia.

On the heels of the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case of a Colorado baker who wanted to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, a Washington State florist who didn’t want to deliver flowers to same-sex couples is now appealing her own case to the nation’s highest court.

Lawyers for Barronelle Stutzman, the proprietor of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., have asked the Supreme Court to reverse a Washington State Supreme Court decision from February. They ruled that Stutzman violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination when she turned away Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll because they are in a same-sex relationship.

Stutzman and her lawyers argue that she refused the couple service because of her Southern Baptist beliefs opposing same-sex marriage, reports the Tri-City Herald.

They also contend that arranging flowers is a form of artistic expression that should be protected under the First Amendment.

Similarly to baker Jim Phillips in the Colorado Masterpiece Cakeshop case, Stutzman hopes the high court will find that business owners, particularly those in wedding-related businesses, should be allowed to refuse to participate in or take actions seen as condoning behavior or relationships to which they have moral or religious objections.

In both Stutzman’s case and the Colorado case, courts found that Washington State and Colorado’s nondiscrimination laws did not violate the defendants’ First Amendment rights. The courts found that the state had a vested interest in ensuring that minorities, including members of the LGBTQ community, were not discriminated against.

“This case has never been about flowers for us,” Ingersoll said in a statement. “It’s about making sure that other people don’t have to go through what we went through. We hope that the Supreme Court sees what the lower courts in this case have already recognized: that business shouldn’t be able to turn someone away simply because of who they are or who they love.”

But Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Stutzman, issued a statement claiming that if the high court rules against their client, then the government will be able to “punish” others who express religious beliefs opposing homosexuality.

“Our nation has a long history of protecting the right to dissent, but simply because Barronelle disagrees with the state about marriage, the government and ACLU have put at risk everything she owns,” ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner said in a statement. “This includes not only her business, but also her family’s savings, retirement funds, and home. Not only does her case and Jack Phillips’ case involve similar issues, but both Barronelle and Jack face burdensome penalties for simply exercising their right of free expression.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com