Friday, February 17, 2017
Sad Day For Freedom Of Religion
WA. SUPREME COURT: Florist Must Service Gay Weddings
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) The Washington State Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that a Richland florist discriminated against a same-sex couple by refusing to provide flowers for their wedding ceremony, regardless of her religious convictions.
Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed approached Baronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, in 2013, soon after the state legalized gay marriage. While making their wedding preparations, the couple asked the florist to make bouquets for the ceremony. Stutzman refused, citing her religious objections to same-sex marriage as grounds for not accepting their money for her services.
“You have to make a stand somewhere in your life on what you believe and what you don’t believe,” Stutzman told CBN in an interview. “It was just a time I had to take a stand.”
Stutzman served those who identify as homosexuals via her business, including Ingersoll, according to the Washington State Supreme Court’s opinion. He was considered a regular customer, spending nearly $1,000 at her shop over the course of nine years.
“Stutzman knew that Ingersoll is gay and that he had been in a relationship with Freed for several years. The two men considered Arlene’s Flowers to be ‘[their] florist,’” the opinion read.
Stutzman is an active member of the Southern Baptist church, and believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. Though Stutzman acted in accordance with her faith, her refusal to provide bouquets for the long-time customer and his fiancée was charged as unlawful discrimination.
According to the court opinion, Stutzman gave Ingersoll the name of other florists who might be willing to serve him, and that the two hugged before Ingersoll left her store. Ingersoll maintained that he walked away from that conversation “feeling very hurt and upset emotionally.”
Stutzman claimed that since other florists in the area were willing to provide flowers for the couple’s ceremony, no harm was done.
Justice Cheryl Gordon McCloud, writing for the Court’s majority opinion, disagreed.
“We agree with Ingersoll and Freed that ‘this case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases were about access to sandwiches,’” she wrote.
“We’re thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. The court affirmed that we are on the right side of the law and the right side of history,” Ingersoll and Freed said in a statement.
A lower court ruled against Stutzman last February, stating she could not discriminate against the couple, regardless of her religious convictions. The judge stated she must either serve same-sex weddings, or stop serving weddings at all. The court also imposed a $1,000 fine.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Jim Campbell, Stutzman plans to take her case to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to reverse the decision.
They hope President Trump will sign an executive order to protect religious freedom—an early campaign promise.
“He has an opportunity to take a stand against the ongoing efforts to marginalize people of faith,” Campbell said.