The United States Supreme Court today (25 June) refused to hear the case of a Washington state florist who denied service to a same-sex couple. They instead returned the case to lower courts.
In 2013, Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington, refused to provide flowers for longtime customer Robert Ingersoll. This was because he was marrying a man.
Stutzman said she had to decline his request because of her ‘relationship with Jesus Christ’.
After suing and going through the proper steps, the Washington Supreme Court found unanimously for Ingersoll. They determined Stutzman violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination.
In their decision, the state Supreme Court said flowers do ‘not inherently express a message about that wedding’.
However, the US Supreme Court returned the case, saying it needed to be reconsidered in light of their recent Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.
How does Masterpiece Cakeshop affect future cases?
In the Masterpiece case, the Supreme Court found for Colorado baker Jack Phillips in a narrow 7-2 ruling. Phillips refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding due to this religion.
The majority made their decision based on the specific context of the case. They ruled the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility to Phillips’ religion from the start.
For this new case, the state of Washington insists no hostility was shown to Stutzman’s religion.
Robert Ferguson, the attorney general in Washington, said: ‘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.’
Though the Supreme Court still has not broadly ruled on this issue, this is likely not the last they will hear of it.
Currently, several cases involving photographers, printers, and more refusing their services to same-sex couples are proceeding through lower courts.