In Gay Wedding Case, Washington Supreme Court Rules Against Florist

Washington court rules against florist who refused flowers for gay wedding

The Washington Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a florist who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding broke the state's antidiscrimination law.

The unanimous decision cited a 2006 Washington state anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal to turn away customers due to their sexual orientation, adding that distinction to other protected factors such as gender, religion and race.

FILE - In this November 15, 2016, file photo, Curt Freed, left, and his husband Robert Ingersoll, the couple who sued florist Barronelle Stutzman for refusing to provide services for their wedding, smile after a hearing before Washington's Supreme Court in Bellevue, Wash.

"The court also ignored an opportunity to reaffirm the basic principle that the government may not trample on the constitutional rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion".

But the court said providing or refusing to provide flowers for a wedding "does not inherently express a message about that wedding".

As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism.

Thursday's ruling also rejected her claim that the law violated her religious freedom. Unfortunately for Stutzman, the Free Exercise Clause permits neutral laws of general applicability-even if they have the practical effect of burdening religious liberty.

'We therefore hold that the conduct for which Stutzman was cited and fined in this case-refusing her commercially marketed wedding floral services to (Robert) Ingersoll and (Curt) Freed because theirs would be a same-sex wedding-constitutes sexual orientation discrimination under the (Washington State Law Against Discrimination)'.

The couple sued Stutzman, and a county superior court ruled in the couple's favor. Some held signs that said, "Freedom to Create".

However, Ferguson, representing the plaintiff, asked the court to uphold anti-discrimination laws and not make an exception, as in this case, based on someone's religious convictions. In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist. "It's wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will". "The Washington Supreme Court was right to shut it down". Would ADF defend a store owner who -for religious reasons - refused to provide a custom arrangement to an African-American and white couple? "As applied in this case, the WALD does not violate [the owner's] right to free association under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution".

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