Thursday, 22 February, 2018

State Supreme Court Rules Flower Shop Owner Discriminated Against Same-Sex Couple

Alfredo Watts | 17 February, 2017, 00:43

Now the owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Washington, Stutzman was asked to provide the flowers for the same-sex wedding ceremony of one of her long-time customers, Rob Ingersoll.

Curt Freed, left, and his husband Robert Ingersoll pose for a photo after a hearing before Washington's Supreme Court on November 15, 2016, in Bellevue, Wash.

A court ruling handed down on Thursday determined that a Seattle florist violated anti-discrimination laws when the owner refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

If the Supreme Court agrees to hear this case, it will be a test of whether the highest court in the land decides to reverse course on basic civil rights protections and privilege "religious freedom" over the freedoms of every other American citizen.

Stutzman has a very unusual backup argument: She insists that the court should create a new, "narrow" rule that would let only "businesses, such as newspapers, publicists, speechwriters, photographers, and other artists, that create expression" discriminate against same-sex couples.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson: Supreme Court ruling in discrimination case is "a complete and unequivocal victory for equality in Washington state". "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".

The group said it would appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court.

"We also hold that the WLAD may be enforced against Stutzman because it does not infringe any constitutional protection", said the opinion, written by Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud.

"The Washington State Supreme Court's ruling tramples on our nation's long held tradition of respecting the freedom of Americans to follow their deeply held beliefs, especially when it comes to participating in activities and ceremonies that so many Americans consider sacred".

It has persuaded federal courts to grant and uphold a restraining order against the Trump administration's immigration crackdown.

Under Washington law, a business need not provide a particular service, but if it chooses to do so for couples of the opposite sex, it must provide that service equally to same-sex couples.

She had previously served the couple, but said when it came to their wedding that it would have gone against her beliefs as a Christian.

Though individual attorneys may work for free on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU is granted attorney's fees in First Amendment cases. She told The Stranger at the time that was "because of my relationship with Jesus".