A Christian florist violated state anti-discrimination laws when she declined to provide floral arrangements for a longtime customer’s same-sex wedding ceremony, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled Thursday, affirming a lower court’s ruling.
A gay couple, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, sued Arlene’s Flowers after the shop’s owner, Barronelle Stutzman, declined to provide flowers for the couple’s ceremony, citing her religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Stutzman’s lawyers, religious freedom law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), vowed to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We are deeply disappointed with today’s court decision,” ADF senior counsel Kristin Waggoner said in a statement released after Thursday’s decision. “It’s unbelievable to think that Barronelle Stutzman, a small business owner and creative professional who loves and respects everyone who walks through her shop’s doors, stands to lose all that she owns – her retirement, her life savings, her home – simply for declining to create custom expression for one event that violated her conscience for a long-time friend and customer. All Americans should be free to peacefully live and act consistent with their convictions and faith without threat of government punishment.”
Stutzman had regularly provided flowers for Ingersoll for years, but her conscience wouldn’t let her participate in the actual wedding ceremony.
“Barronelle created custom floral arrangements for Rob dozens of times over the course of nearly 10 years. Many of those artistic arrangements were for his partner, Curt,” Waggoner said. “One time, in all those years, she declined to create a specific message that conflicted with her deeply held beliefs about marriage. And Rob and Curt had no trouble obtaining wedding flowers from two other local floral design artists. The only damages they claim are $8 in gas to go there instead.”
The gay couple celebrated their legal victory as proof that they are on the “right side of history” — a term favored by former President Obama and other prominent progressives.
“We’re thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor,” Ingersoll and Freed said in a statement released through the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which joined their lawsuit against Stutzman. “The Court affirmed that we are on the right side of the law and the right side of history. We felt it was so important that we stand up against discrimination because we don’t want what happened to us to happen to anyone else. We are so glad that we stood up for our rights.”
“No one would expect a Muslim journalist to write a piece for a religious journal that attacked Mohammed; no one would expect an Orthodox Jewish artist to create a mural for a religious customer that contradicted the Torah’s teachings,” she said. “Nor should Barronelle be forced to create custom expression celebrating a same-sex wedding.”