The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against a florist who refused to provide flowers for a customer’s wedding because he was marrying a man.
Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richmond, said her decision was based on her ‘relationship with Jesus Christ.’
The state’s high court on Thursday (16 February) upheld a state law that prohibits discrimination against LGBTI people by businesses that provides services to the public.
‘Discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,’ the court stated in its 59-page ruling.
‘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 lawsuit against the business was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Freed and Ingersoll who have been a couple since 2004.
Ingersoll had been a customer of Stutzman’s for nine years when he approached her about flowers for the 2013 wedding.
Stutzman told Ingersoll that she would be unable to do the flowers for his wedding because of her religious beliefs, specifically, because of”her relationship with Jesus Christ.
He left feeling very hurt and later posted what had happened on Facebook. The incident gained national attention and led to the lawsuit.
Stutzman was found guilty of violating the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws and fined $1,000 plus $1 in court fees.
She appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court.
‘[T]his case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches,’ the high court stated.
The Human Rights Campaign praised the ruling.
‘Businesses who are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms,’ said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.
Washington is one of 19 states that provide protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Stutzman is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom which plans to appeal the case all the way to the US Supreme Court.
‘It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will,’ said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner. ‘Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees.’