The Washington State Supreme Court decided against a Southern Baptist floral artist Feb. 16 when it ruled that she discriminated against a same-sex couple in 2013 by refusing to create flower arrangements for their wedding.
The unanimous decision upheld a lower court ruling that ordered Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, to provide her artistic services for same-sex marriage ceremonies and pay penalties for violating the state’s Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD).
Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Wash., refused to create flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding based on her Christian beliefs.
For nearly a decade, Stutzman sold flowers to Rob Ingersoll on various occasions and considered him a friend. But when Ingersoll asked her to prepare flowers for his same-sex wedding, she refused to do so because of “her relationship with Jesus Christ.” Stutzman suggested other florists in the area.
The court said her action “constitutes sexual orientation discrimination,” and that government enforcement of the WLAD against Stutzman “does not infringe any constitutional protection.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a non-profit legal organization representing Stutzman, said in a press release that she will appeal the decision in the United States Supreme Court.
“The Washington Supreme Court's ruling shortchanges our nation's most fundamental freedom in favor of ideological conformity,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Barronelle Stutzman followed her genuinely held beliefs without hostility toward any, and yet finds herself the target of a government that wants to steamroll her constitutional rights.
“The Court held that the government can force citizens to use their creative gifts and expressive speech to participate and endorse acts they believe to be immoral. This decision is a loss not only for Barronelle Stutzman but for every American who values liberty and civility over coercion by the government. My prayer is that this ruling would be overturned and that the U.S. Supreme Court would recognize the crucial importance of religious liberty.”
The ERLC is among several groups that filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the florist.