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Supreme Court Grants Appeal to Florist Fined for Refusing to Service Gay Wedding
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Supreme Court

Summary: The Supreme Court said that the state of Washington should reconsider the case of a florist who refused to serve a gay wedding. 

A Washington florist was fined for refusing to sell flowers to be used at a same-sex wedding, and on Monday, the Supreme Court granted an appeal in light of the recent decision concerning the Colorado baker. The court did not agree to hear the case but instead sent it back to the state court for a retrial.

  
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“By kicking the case back to the Washington courts, rather than taking it up themselves, the justices signaled they aren’t ready to dive back into the subject. The Colorado ruling left open core questions about whether and when business owners can turn away customers on religious or free-speech grounds,” Bloomberg said.

On June 4, the Supreme Court ruled that Jack Phillips was not required to make a special wedding cake for a gay couple’s wedding. Phillips was previously fined in Colorado for discrimination, but the Supreme Court said in a narrow ruling that he was not fairly given due process and that his religious beliefs were violated.

On Monday, the Supreme Court said that the state court in Washington should rehear the case of Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington. The florist had refused to sell flowers to a marrying gay couple and had cited her religion as grounds for refusal.

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The state court had ruled against Stutzman, and Washington’s attorney general told NBC News that Stutzman’s appeal will most likely result in the same judgment.

“The Washington State Supreme Court now has the job of determining whether the U.S. Supreme Court ruling affects this case. I am confident they will come to the same conclusion they did in their previous, unanimous ruling upholding the civil rights of same-sex couples in our state,” Robert Ferguson, Washington’s attorney general, said to NBC News.



In 2013, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed approached Stutzman’s business and asked her to supply flowers for their wedding. She said that as a Southern Baptist she could not do the service, as it violated her religious beliefs.

Like the Colorado baker, Stutzman said her flowers were an art and asking her to do something involving a same-sex marriage violated her freedom of expression. The couple and the state of Washington sued the florist, and state courts ruled that she had violated anti-discrimination laws.

The state’s court said that providing flowers did not inherently endorse the wedding, and Ferguson said that Stutzman’s argument that she could refuse service to gays because of freedom of expression “would allow every tattoo parlor, print shop, hair salon, photography studio, bakery, law firm, or other business whose work involves a degree of ‘expression’ to discriminate against customers.”

Stutzman is being represented by Kristen Waggoner of the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom. The Alliance Defending Freedom defended Phillips as well.

“The attorney general’s efforts to punish her because he dislikes her beliefs about marriage are as impermissible as Colorado’s attempt to punish Jack,” Waggoner said.

What do you think of the Washington florist? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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