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Christian Florist Loses In Court, Anti-Gay Discrimination

Barronelle Stutzman, a Christian florist in Richland, Washington, lost her court case on Feb. 16 against a same-sex couple, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, whom she refused to sell flowers to in 2013.

All nine Washington Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously that the owner of Arlene’s Flowers violated the state's anti-discrimination law by not providing flowers for the couple's same-sex wedding, notes The Associated Press.

The great-grandmother had previously sold flowers to Ingersoll and Freed, and asserted in her case that was proof that she was not discriminating against them because of their sexual orientation.

According to ThinkProgress, the Washington Supreme Court didn't buy that argument because only people with a same-sex orientation would have a same-sex wedding, so not serving a same-sex wedding is indeed discriminating against gay people based on their sexual orientation.

Stutzman asserted that providing floral arrangements for the event infringed on her free speech rights as an artist, and that the flowers would have served as her endorsement for same-sex marriage.

However, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that flowers were not "inherently expressive," notes ThinkProgress, and ruled that "the decision to either provide or refuse to provide flowers for a wedding does not inherently express a message about that wedding."

The court noted similar situations in its opinion, reports the AP:

As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism...

As every other court to address the question has concluded, public accommodations laws do not simply guarantee access to goods or services. Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace.

Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined.

Stutzman also argued that doing the floral arrangements for the same-sex wedding violated her Christian beliefs, but ThinkProgress notes that Washington State's non-discrimination law equally applies to all people/businesses and doesn't go after those with specific religious beliefs.

Stutzman's lawyers at the Christian-based Alliance Defending Freedom are planning to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stutzman's lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, released a written statement: "It's wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren't subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees."

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a similar case in April 2014 when New Mexico-based Elane Photography refused to provide professional services for a same-sex wedding (ceremonial only) in 2006 based on religious beliefs, noted the Washington Blade.

Sources: AP via ABC News, Washington BladeThinkProgress / Photo credit: Alliance Defending Freedom

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