Florist Who Discriminated Against Same-Sex Couple Loses Yet Again, This Time in Washington State Supreme Court


Claims of Right to Discriminate Based on Her Religious Beliefs Again Rejected

Barronelle Stutzman has lost once again, this time in the Washington State Supreme Court. In 2013, the owner of Arlene's Flowers refused to sell flowers for a long-time customer's wedding, citing her religious beliefs. In doing so, she violated the state's nondiscrimination ordinance, and was sued by Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. 

As Zack Ford at ThinkProgress reports, Stutzman has lost various cases on various arguments, including the claim that she did not discriminate against Ingersoll and Freed because of their sexual orientation, and that she did not discriminate because flower arranging is artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. 

"Stutzman herself had admitted that providing flowers to a wedding between Muslims would not constitute an endorsement for Islam, nor would flowers for an atheist wedding have endorsed atheism," Ford writes.

Stutzman, who is in her early 70's, has been offered several opportunities to settle the case, but her attorneys, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), pursued appeal after appeal. They mounted a media (and fundraising) campaign and claimed she "stands to lose her business, her home, and her personal savings," if she were to lose her case.

In reality, prosecutors at one point offered to settle the case for $1000 and a promise to not discriminate again, but she refused. Another settlement offer along the way for $2001 was also refused by Stutzman.

The couple's attorneys, the ACLU, also offered an easy settlement. $5000 to a local LGBT nonprofit and, again, a promise to stop discriminating. Stutzman refused.

There have been three or four suits and appeals. Stutzman has now lost each time. 

Along the way, a GoFundMe campaign raised about $174,000 for either Stutzman or her attorneys.

In related news, it's also been a bad week for the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Southern Poverty Law Center this week designated the Christian law firm an anti-gay hate group.

Here's the court's conclusion:

The State of Washington bars discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We therefore hold that the conduct for which Stutzman was cited and fined in this case-refusing her commercially marketed wedding floral services to Ingersoll and Freed because theirs would be a same-sex wedding-constitutes sexual orientation discrimination under the WLAD. We also hold that the WLAD may be enforced against Stutzman because it does not infringe any constitutional protection. As applied in this case, the WLAD does not compel speech or association. And assuming that it substantially burdens Stutzman's religious free exercise, the WLAD does not violate her right to religious free exercise under either the First Amendment or article I, section 11 because it is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government's compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations. We affirm the trial court's rulings.

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Image of Barronelle Stutzman screenshot via YouTube