Years after Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, refused to do business with a gay couple wanting to get married because of her Christian beliefs, the state’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled against her:
The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that a florist who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding broke the state’s antidiscrimination law, even though she claimed doing so would violate her religious beliefs.
Stutzman argued that she was exercising her First Amendment rights. But the court held that her floral arrangements do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.
“As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism,” the opinion said.
Nor would her Christianity be a legitimate excuse for refusing to sell flowers to a black customer or a interracial couple. If you own a public business, you have to play by the same rules as everybody else. Your religious beliefs don’t give you a license to discriminate.
Stutzman’s lawyers disagree and say they’ll ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the case. Given the current makeup of the Court, however, even if they were to take up this case, overturning the ruling would be a long shot.
In the meantime, her other allies are still treating her like a Christian martyr. As if she would’ve suffered some great loss by providing flowers for a gay wedding.
Groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State were pleased with the ruling.
Stutzman’s main argument was that her flower arrangements were “expressive conduct” — speech, in First Amendment terms — and that she shouldn’t have to communicate a message with her flowers that she doesn’t believe in. But the court rightly rejected this argument, ruling that providing “flowers for a wedding does not inherently express a message about that wedding.”
The florist also proposed that what she called “artistic” services (like hers) be exempted from the anti-discrimination law. The court quickly dismissed this bad idea, quoting from AU’s brief: Such an arrangement, the court noted, would create an unworkable “two-tiered system” where a “dime-store lunch counter would be required to serve interracial couples but an upscale bistro could turn them away.”
While this case may be over, barring the U.S. Supreme Court doing something drastic, keep in mind that Donald Trump is considering an Executive Order that would allow religious people to discriminate without penalty. It’s similar to the law Gov. Mike Pence signed in Indiana before a public outcry forced him to pull it back. While Trump reported delayed signing such an Order a few weeks ago, with this decision, he may be pressured into giving the thumbs up to faith-based bigotry.
In the meantime, I guess we can all send thoughts and prayers to Alliance Defending Freedom in this difficult time. It’s the least we can do before we throw a giant party in favor of civil rights.
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