For the second time this term, the Supreme Court didn’t rule on the merits of a case involving a Christian business owner refusing to service gay customers. Weeks ago, with the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, the justices said the process by which a Colorado commission punished a Christian baker was unfair to him, thereby giving him a hollow victory.
This morning, the justices punted on an equally infamous case involving Barronelle Stutzman, a florist who wouldn’t provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.
The Washington Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2017 that Stutzman broke the state’s anti-discrimination law. Selling flowers for a gay wedding, they said, was no less an endorsement of homosexuality than flowers for an Islamic or atheist wedding. She even admitted that herself.
While the U.S. Supreme Court considered her case, they decided today not to hear it next term, instead asking the Washington Supreme Court to give it another look in light of SCOTUS’ ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop.
While conservatives are calling that a victory of sorts, it doesn’t necessarily mean Stutzman is off the hook. The state’s ruling against her didn’t say the process was unfair to her; they said Stutzman was just being a flat-out bigot. She refused to sell a gay customer the very same thing she would’ve sold a straight one. It’s not like the customer was asking for special gay flowers spelling out the words “Homosexuality is the best!” Had he not been gay, he would’ve received the products he wanted to pay for. It’s as simple as that.
To reconsider her case with Masterpiece in mind doesn’t change those facts, and it’s hard to see why they would rule any differently this time around.
As the Washington Post notes about the original ruling, there was nothing in it suggesting a biased process against the owner of Arlene’s Flowers:
In its decision, the Washington Supreme Court said it agreed with the couple’s assertion in a brief that “this case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.”
It added that public accommodation laws do more than guarantee access to goods and services.
“Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace,” the justices wrote. “Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined.”
The case is far from over, but despite what groups like Alliance Defending Freedom are saying, conservatives have nothing to celebrate just yet. ADF plans to argue that Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson was biased when he went after her.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has rightfully asked the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider Barronelle’s case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision,” [ADF senior vice president of the U.S. legal division Kristen K.] Waggoner explained. “In that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court denounced government hostility toward the religious beliefs about marriage held by creative professionals like Jack and Barronelle. The state of Washington, acting through its attorney general, has shown similar hostility here.”
There’s no hostility. Stutzman thought her religion gave her the right to discriminate against specific customers. Washington State says that’s not allowed. The case was always clear-cut and nothing about today’s decision by the Supreme Court changes that.
(Screenshot via YouTube)