Washington florist ready to take religious liberty case to Supreme Court
posted at 9:21 am on February 17, 2017 by Ed Morrissey
A Washington florist who refused to participate in a same-sex wedding lost a unanimous decision yesterday at the state Supreme Court. The 9-0 ruling rejected her claim to a First Amendment right to exercise her right to religious liberty in favor of the state’s anti-discrimination law. The next step for Barronelle Stutzman will be the US Supreme Court, as KIRO reported lat night:
The Associated Press has more details on the next steps. Stutzman’s legal counsel insists that the First Amendment allows for free exercise of religion, and that commerce does not limit it. The case will have some company on the Supreme Court’s list of cases pending a decision on review:
“It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will,” Stutzman’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner, wrote in a statement issued after the ruling. “Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees.”
It’s one of several lawsuits around the country — including some involving bakers — about whether businesses can refuse to provide services over causes they disagree with, or whether they must serve everyone equally.
A Colorado case involving a baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Lambda Legal. In 2014, the court declined to hear an appeal of a case out of New Mexico that went against a photographer who denied a same-sex couple service.
We’ve been tracking the case of Barronelle Stuztman for at least two years, and the situation remains largely the same. She’s still a small-business owner who knowing serves LGBT customers — including the plaintiffs in this case for several years — who does not want to participate in same-sex marriages. Stutzman doesn’t have a monopoly on the florist trade; there are plenty of other florists who can (and did, in the end) design custom floral spreads for the wedding in question. At this point, she stands to lose everything because of her belief that the First Amendment means that the free exercise of religion includes the right to decline to participate in ceremonies that go against her faith.
If the situation remains largely the same, perhaps the context of it has changed since Donald Trump won the election. Suddenly, artists from singers to designers have refused to work with Trump, his wife, and his inauguration over their political offense at his election. His daughter’s designer products have been removed from stores under protest by Trump’s political opponents. These involve the same First Amendment rights that Barronelle Stutzman makes for declining a business opportunity on the basis of her own conscience.
Government should not force the Barronelle Stutzmans out of business, unless we’re willing to do the same with the Sophie Theallats. The Supreme Court dodged this issue once; they need to take it up now. If they refuse, then Congress and the president need to address this infringement on free market and conscience rights in this term.
Yesterday, I spoke about this case with Kerri Kupec of Alliance Defending Freedom, which has provided legal counsel to Stutzman, on The Ed Morrissey Show. Kerry comes on about the 62-minute mark. Kupec explains why the next step has to be to the Supreme Court, and explains some of the background.