Supreme Court throws out ruling for florist who refused to serve same-sex couple

A lower court in Washington will review a decision it made declaring a florist discriminated against a same-sex couple

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 25 June 2018 21:33
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Protesters outside of the Supreme Court
Protesters outside of the Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court has said it will not review a case involving a florist who allegedly discriminated against a same-sex couple - ordering a lower Washington court revisit the case.

The state’s Supreme Court previously ruled Arlene’s Flowers Inc. had discriminated against the couple by refusing to create floral arrangements for their wedding. But the justices threw out that decision, sending the case back to be redetermined after their historic ruling earlier this month in a similar case involving a Colorado bakery.

That case, Masterpiece Cake Shop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, involved a baker who allegedly discriminated against another same-sex couple by refusing to produce a cake for their wedding. The Supreme Court ruled narrowly in the baker’s favour after he appealed the lower court’s decision that it was discrimination, writing that the state’s civil rights commission showed hostility towards his sincerely held religious beliefs.

In the case of florist Barronelle Stutzman, regular customer Robert Ingersoll approached her in 2013 and said he wanted to talk about flowers for his wedding to his longtime companion, Curt Freed. Ms Stutzman said had to decline his request because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ.”

“I truly want the best for my friend,” Ms Stutzman wrote in a letter to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in 2015. “I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case.”

By sending the florist case back to Washington state, the Supreme Court has once again avoided ruling on the Constitutional implications behind discrimination cases against same-sex weddings, but said the case should be reconsidered in light of the Colorado ruling. “To be clear, the court made no indication the lower courts ruled incorrectly and made no decision on the case’s merits,” said James Esseks, director of the LGBT and HIV Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Charlie Craig, one of the husbands included in the bakery lawsuit, told The Independent about the florist case: "We are confident that the Washington courts will again rule that no business has the right to discriminate."

"The Supreme Court sent the case back for further consideration by the Washington courts; they didn't say the Washington courts did anything wrong, and just asked the court to take another look in light of this month's decision in Masterpiece," Mr Craig said. "There is no evidence of hostility towards religious beliefs in this case. In fact, Washington courts repeatedly recognised that religious views are protected."

Washington's Supreme Court will review the case once again and make a second decision in the coming months. “We are confident that the Washington State Supreme Court will rule once again in favour of the same-sex couple, and reaffirm its decision that no business has a right to discriminate,” Mr Esseks said.

The Supreme Court made the florist case announcement during a flurry of decisions arriving Monday morning, including a ruling which says Texas’ political map largely isn't racial gerrymandering. The justices also announced they would not review a case involving Brendan Dassey, which helped inspire the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer.

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