Washington court rules against Christian florist in gay wedding case

Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. (February 16, 2017) — 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.

Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Richland, Washington, had been fined by a lower court for denying service to a gay couple in 2013. Stutzman said she was exercising her First Amendment rights, and her lawyers immediately said they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Thursday's decision.

She had previously sold the couple flowers and knew they were gay. However, Stutzman told them that she couldn't provide flowers for their wedding because same-sex marriage was incompatible with her Christian beliefs.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the couple sued her, saying she broke state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, and the lower court agreed. The state's nine high court justices upheld that verdict.

The case thrust the great-grandmother into the national spotlight and she testified before state lawmakers in Indiana and Kansas.

Reaction ...

Perkins

"Americans were told repeatedly that redefining marriage would have little impact on their lives. Yet now courts are seeking to drive families from their businesses – and now today even their homes as the result of crippling government-imposed fines designed to force them to deny their faith. Barronelle knew her customer and friend identified as gay, yet happily served him for years; she just didn't want to be involved in his wedding. But the ACLU and the Washington State government couldn't stand this, and decided to make an example out of her.

"The Supreme Court must correct this gross injustice and we urge President Trump to sign an executive order protecting religious freedom to ensure the federal government does not engage in the same discriminatory behavior as rogue states like Washington. Americans of all backgrounds have suffered the loss of their religious freedoms because of Obama-era policies. The time to protect religious freedom is now."

Tony Perkins, president
Family Research Council


"This outrageous ruling confirms what we have been saying ever since the U.S. Supreme Court illegitimately redefined marriage in its Obergefell decision – the religious rights of people of faith are being systematically sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and LGBT extremism.

"This case is one of many that illustrates why President Trump must act immediately to protect the religious liberty rights of people of faith. Liberal judges simply will not act to protect people with mainstream, traditional views on marriage and sexuality when they conflict with the ever-expansive demands of LGBT extremists. It is up to President Trump and Congress to act."

National Organization for Marriage

Michael Scott, a Seattle attorney who worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to represent Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed — the couple denied the flowers — had previously told justices he didn't believe Stutzman's floral creations constituted speech. By providing flowers for a same-sex marriage, he argued, "she's not endorsing same-sex marriage. She's selling what she sells."

Ferguson had said the state's argument rested on longstanding principle, and uprooting it would weaken antidiscrimination law.

After the arguments in the Supreme Court case last November, at a packed theater at Bellevue College, a large crowd of Stutzman's supporters greeted her outside, chanting her name and waving signs with pictures of roses that said "Justice For Barronelle."

In a February ruling, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom found that Stutzman's refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation violated Washington's anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. She has been fined $1,000, plus $1 in court costs and fees.

Stutzman entered the florist business 30 years ago, when her mother bought a flower shop and she started as a delivery person.


More reaction ...

Paxton

"The First Amendment guarantees the liberty to speak freely, and the fundamental right to disagree. The government cannot force individuals to create art against their conscience and deeply held religious beliefs. Today's display of intolerance by the Washington State Supreme Court both defies the Constitution and seeks to outlaw the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Compelling individuals to speak messages against their sincerely held beliefs is un-American and unconstitutional."

Ken Paxton, attorney general
State of Texas

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