The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sent
back to lower courts a case involving a Washington state florist who
refused to create flower arrangements for a gay couple.
In February, 2017, Washington's highest
court unanimously ruled that Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of
Arlene's Flowers & Gifts in Richland, had discriminated against a
gay couple when she refused to provide flowers for their wedding.
Stutzman in 2013 refused to serve
Robert Ingersoll when he attempted to purchase flowers for his
upcoming marriage to now-husband Curt Freed. Stutzman said that
providing the service would be a violation of her faith.
“The judgment is vacated, and the
case is remanded to the Supreme Court of Washington for further
consideration in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop,” the court
wrote, referring to a ruling issued earlier this month involving a
Colorado baker who cited his religious beliefs in refusing to make a
cake for a gay couple.
In Masterpiece Cakeshop, the
high court said that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown
hostility toward the baker's religious beliefs in ruling that he had
violated the state's anti-discrimination laws when he refused to make
the cake. Rather than striking down the Colorado's law, the high
court vacated the decision.
Court narrowly sides with baker who refused gay couple.)
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, described the high court's
ruling as “encouraging.”
“The Supreme Court has simply asked
the lower court to take another look at this case in light of their
recent decision in Masterpiece,
but they did not indicate there was anything wrong with the ruling,”
said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “In Masterpiece, the
Supreme Court found that the state of Colorado’s enforcement of its
civil rights law was flawed due to perceived bias in the process,
however, there is no indication that there were flaws in the
application of civil rights law in Arlene’s Flowers. We view
this decision as encouraging news that justice will prevail and the
Washington State Supreme Court will again uphold the state’s
non-discrimination laws ensuring LGBTQ people cannot be turned away
from a business open to the public.”
The ACLU, which is involved in the
case, offered a similar reaction.
“To be clear, the court made no
indication the lower courts ruled incorrectly and made no decision on
the case’s merits. We are confident that the Washington State
Supreme Court will rule once again in favor of the same-sex couple,
and reaffirm its decision that no business has a right to
discriminate. Our work to ensure LGBT equality is the law and the
norm in all 50 states will continue,” James Esseks, director of
ACLU's LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement.