Supreme Court refuses to say if florist can reject same-sex marriages

Police stand guard at the Washington Supreme Court.

Mike Theiler | Reuters

The United States Supreme Court said Friday it would not hear a case brought by a Christian florist who argues that a Washington state anti-discrimination law that requires him to provide personalized flower arrangements for same-sex marriage ceremonies are unconstitutional.

The court ruling left state court rulings against the florist intact. It comes weeks after the High Court ruled on another gay rights issue, siding with a Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia that says his religious beliefs prevent him from working with adoptive parents same sex.

The case is similar to a dispute the Supreme Court ruled three years ago involving a religious baker who refused to bake a personalized cake for a same-sex marriage.

In that decision, known as the Masterpiece Cakeshop, the court ruled 7-2 in favor of the baker, but declined to provide a general rule that could apply outside of the specific circumstances of the case.

The flower shop case, known as Arlene’s Flowers, involves the same lawyers and many of the same issues as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

The opinion in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case was drafted by Judge Anthony Kennedy, who had also championed LGBT rights from the bench. Kennedy has since retired and has been replaced by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, whose perspective on LGBT rights is unknown.

The florist’s affair dates back to 2013, when Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, refused to provide flowers for the wedding ceremony of her longtime clients Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll on the grounds that her Southern Baptist faith does not recognize marriages between two men. .

Stutzman’s refusal ultimately led the state attorney general to obtain a court order prohibiting Stutzman from discriminating against same-sex couples in the future. The Washington Supreme Court upheld the order, prompting Stutzman to ask the United States Supreme Court to intervene.

The United States Supreme Court granted Stutzman’s request and ordered the Washington Supreme Court to render a new decision taking into account the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which found Colorado to have been unfairly hostile to religious beliefs from the baker. The Washington Supreme Court again upheld the order requiring Stutzman to provide services to same-sex couples, ruling that the state had not treated Stutzman with hostility.

“The court called Barronelle” discriminating “and ordered her to attend, facilitate, and create custom flower art celebrating all or none of the weddings,” Stutzman’s lawyer Kristen Wagoner wrote to the judges.

Wagoner, an executive with the conservative Defending Freedom Alliance, was also one of the lawyers who represented the baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

Stutzman argued that his flower arrangements are in fact speech, which is protected by the First Amendment.

“Like all artists, Barronelle speaks through his bespoke creations,” Wagoner wrote in his Supreme Court application, which calls flower arrangements “multimedia works incorporating flowers”.

Ingersoll and Freed, who tied the knot in 2013 in a small ceremony, argued that Stutzman was essentially seeking a “flower art” exemption from anti-discrimination laws.

“The notion of a First Amendment right to discriminate has been rejected as often as it has been raised,” wrote Ria Tabacco Mar, ACLU attorney representing the couple, who also represented the couple in the case. Masterpiece Cakeshop.

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