State says business violated nondiscrimination laws by refusing to provide services for a same-sex marriage.
The owner of the Richmond floral shop who was sued when she refused to make the necessary arrangements for the same-sex wedding of a long time customer lost her appeal before the highest court in Washington. The Washington Supreme Court gave a unanimous ruling on February 16 that she broke the anti-discrimination law present in the state. Baronelle Stutzman had then claimed providing flowers for a same-sex marriage would violate her personal religious beliefs.
Stutzman refused to sell flowers to a gay couple in 2013. A lower court subsequently fined her for denial of service. She was asked to shell out $1,000 along with other expenses. The case was filed against her by the couple. The two were joined by Bob Ferguson, the State Attorney of Washington. They accused Arlene's Flowers for violating the nondiscrimination laws present in the state. Additionally, they believe that the consumer protection act was breached too.
The Washington US Supreme Court in its 9-0 decision wrote that the law is constitutional as it functions as a relatively neutral and general application law which serves the state 's wish is to eradicate the scourge of eradicating discrimination in public places. The Supreme Court thus concurred with the rulings of the trial court. It said that Stutzman has admitted during her deposition that like providing flowers to a Muslim wedding does not amount to endorsing Islam or providing flowers to an atheist couple is not equivalent to endorsing atheism, selling flowers to a gay wedding does not equal endorsing gay marriage.
Lawyers for Stutzman quickly said that they would appeal to the US Supreme Court so that the decision can be overturned. Kristen Waggoner, the attorney representing Stutzman, said it will be wrong for state to compel any citizen so that he or she supports a specific view concerning marriage or any subject against their will. She continued on to say that religion and freedom of speech cannot be bowed down to the majority whim. These are guaranteed by the constitution.
The shop owner responded to the decision saying “It was terrifying. When you think the government is telling you what to think and what to do and what to say we should all be very scared.”
The Washington Supreme Court decision affirmed the ruling made in 2015 in Benton County Superior Court. Alex Ekstrom was the presiding judge. The judge has given the judgment in the same side as Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General, and plaintiffs Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll. Both the plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Arlene's Flowers in 2013 after Stutzman refused them.