(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) A florist from Washington state has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a state court’s unanimous ruling that would force her to service same-sex weddings, despite her religious convictions.
Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richmond, Washington, was sued by a same-sex couple after she refused to provide flowers for their wedding ceremony, citing her belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
A Washington state court ruled against her in February, stating she had discriminated against the couple. Though Stutzman acted in accordance with her faith, she was charged with unlawful discrimination.
“You have to make a stand somewhere in your life on what you believe and what you don’t believe,” Stutzman told CBN in an interview. “It was just a time I had to take a stand.”
The judge ruled she must serve same-sex weddings, or stop serving weddings altogether. The court also imposed a $1,000 fine.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group that defends religious liberty, is asking the Supreme Court to consolidate Stutzman’s case with a similar case the Court already accepted — Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – in which baker Jack Phillips was told by state courts to make wedding cakes for gay couples or be subject to fines.
“Our nation has a long history of protecting the right to dissent, but simply because Barronelle disagrees with the state about marriage, the government and ACLU have put at risk everything she owns,” ADF Senior Counsel Kristin Waggoner said. “This includes not only her business, but also her family’s savings, retirement funds, and home. Not only does her case and Jack Phillips’ case involve similar issues, but both Barronelle and Jack face burdensome penalties for simply exercising their right of free expression.”
Robert Ingersoll, a longtime customer whom Stutzman considered a friend, approached her in 2013, soon after the state legalized gay marriage. After Stutzman declined to provide bouquets for his wedding ceremony, she recommended several other local florists, they hugged, and he left.
“Rob Ingersoll and I have been friends since very nearly the first time he walked into my shop all those years ago,” said Stutzman. “There was never an issue with his being gay, just as there hasn’t been with any of my other customers or employees. He just enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him. But now the state is trying to use this case to force me to create artistic expression that violates my deepest beliefs and take away my life’s work and savings, which will also harm those who I employ. I’m not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn’t promised me and every other American: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference.”
Waggoner said the Washington state court’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent against religious freedom that infringes on citizens’ First Amendment rights.
“If the government can ruin Barronelle for peacefully living and working according to her faith, it can punish anyone else for expressing their beliefs,” Waggoner said. “The government shouldn’t have the power to force a 72-year-old grandmother to surrender her freedom in order to run her family business. Anyone who supports the First Amendment rights that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all of us should stand with Barronelle.”