Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s contrary decision in a similar case, a unanimous Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld its ruling that florist Barronelle Stutzman broke the state’s anti-discrimination law when she refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court sent back Stutzman’s case to the state after ruling Colorado showed religious animus to Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex couple.
In the Phillips case one year ago, the court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was hostile to Phillips’ faith “and failed to act neutrally toward his religion.”
However, in the Stutzman case, the court found that neither the Washington Supreme Court nor the Benton County Superior Court acted with religious animus toward Stutzman and her business, Arlene’s Flowers, the Washington Examiner reported.
The Washington Supreme Court said Thursday it’s confident that Stutzman’s case was resolved “with tolerance, and we therefore find no reason to change our original judgment.”
Attorneys for Stutzman, whose case began with a lawsuit against her in 2013, said they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Stutzman cited her religious beliefs when she refused to provide flowers for customer Robert Ingersoll for his wedding to Curt Freed. She had served the couple without incident for 10 years and explained her only objection was to same-sex marriage.
The state and the couple sued Stutzman under a law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations.
Stutzman argued the law violated her First Amendment rights to free speech, free exercise of religion and free association.
Unprecedented use of state law
In November, WND reported the opening brief filed with the Washington state Supreme Court contended Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson showed hostility toward Stutzman’s religious beliefs regarding marriage.
“He devised an admittedly unprecedented use of [state law] to punish Mrs. Stutzman, while refusing to pursue a Seattle coffee-shop owner who viciously berated and expelled Christian customers because of their religious beliefs.”
The brief said the “unequal treatment, combined with the attorney’s general’s dismissive and derisive comments about Mrs. Stutzman’s faith, leaves no doubt that he has targeted her because of his animus toward her religious beliefs.”
In the Colorado case, the state’s official position of hostility to Christianity, demonstrated by multiple comments from commission members, was key to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to rule in Phillips’ favor.
The commissioners had dismissed requests to punish homosexual bakers who refused to put requested messages on cakes because of their beliefs but aggressively pursued punishment of Phillips.
The brief contended Ferguson was violating Stutzman’s religious rights by requiring her to attend and participate in same-sex weddings.
“The attorney general has targeted her because of, and shown hostility toward, her religious beliefs about marriage – beliefs that the U.S. Supreme Court has described as ‘decent and honorable’ and held ‘in good faith by reasonable and sincere people,” the brief said.
It argued that the Masterpiece ruling “held that the government violates the Free Exercise Clause when it exhibits ‘hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs’ of people who cannot in good conscience celebrate same-sex marriages.’
“Where such hostility exists, the state fails in its obligation to act ‘in a manner that is neutral toward religion.'”
ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner, who defended Stutzman before the Washington Supreme Court in 2016, argued the florist “serves all customers; she simply declines to celebrate or participate in sacred events that violate her deeply held beliefs.”
“Despite that, the state of Washington has been openly hostile toward Barronelle’s religious beliefs about marriage,” Waggoner said. “It not only went after her business but also sued her in her personal capacity – putting all her personal assets, including her life savings, at risk.”
Ferguson had tried to settle the case by demanding that Stutzman “give up her religious and artistic freedom,” and Stutzman refused.