Washington Supreme Court Rules Against Florist in Gay Wedding Case

June 7, 2019

A florist who refused to provide floral arrangements for the wedding of a same-sex couple violated the state’s consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws, Washington’s Supreme Court has ruled.

The ruling issued Thursday came nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple citing religious opposition.

The court in its ruling noted that it was tasked with deciding whether the Washington courts violated the U.S. Constitution’s guaranty of religious neutrality in the prior adjudication of the case.

“We have fully reviewed the record with this issue in mind, and we have considered substantial new briefing devoted to this topic,” the ruling stated. “We now hold that the answer to the Supreme Court’s question is no; the adjudicatory bodies that considered this case did not act with religious animus when they ruled that the florist and her corporation violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), chapter 49.60 RCW, 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 state bars discrimination in “public . . . accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation, the court found.

Barronelle Stutzman, who owns and operates Arlene’s Flowers Inc., refused to sell wedding flowers in 2013 to Robert Ingersoll because his betrothed, Curt Freed, is a man.

The state and the couple sued, each alleging violations of the WLAD and the Consumer Protection Act. Stutzman defended on the grounds that the WLAD and CPA do not apply to her conduct and that if they do, those statutes violate her state and federal constitutional rights to free speech, free exercise of religion, and free association.

A superior court ruled in favor of the state and the couple, and the Supreme Court in an earlier opinion reviewed the case and affirmed the lower court’s rulings. The U.S. Supreme Court then granted a petition from the defendant and remanded it to the state Supreme Court.

The court in its decision on Thursday rejected the defendant’s suggestion that the permanent injunction requires them to “personally attend and participate in same-sex weddings.”

The case is State of Washington and Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed Vs. Arlene’s Flowers Inc.

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