There’s no reason now that every wedding in Washington can’t be covered in dahlias and lilies after the state’s supreme court ruled against a florist who refused to supply flowers for a gay couple’s wedding. The court unanimously ruled that the florist, Barronelle Stutzman, had broken the state’s anti-discrimination law when she denied her company’s services for a same-sex wedding in 2013. Stutzman reportedly did not believe she had not discriminated against the gay couple, but if she had, she claimed that would be able to do so because it would violate her religious beliefs, saying that she was exercising her First Amendment rights.
But that’s not how the court saw it after she told Robert Ingersoll, the gay customer, that she would not sell him flowers for his wedding because of “her relationship with Jesus Christ,” according to Slate. CBS News reported that the court ruled that her argument that her floral arrangements qualify as expression, “do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.”
The state's anti-discrimination law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As such, the state initially ordered the great-grandmother to stop discriminating, upon receiving the complaint, and said she must provide flowers for same-sex weddings, despite her arguments. According to Slate, Stutzman refused those conditions and a trial court fined her $1,001 in February 2015. The florist appealed the lower court’s ruling to the state’s supreme court, which has now agreed with the initial judgment and upheld its ruling.
“It is a complete, unequivocal victory for equality in the state of Washington and sends a clear message around the country as well,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said at a news conference following the Thursday ruling, according to The Seattle Times.
Stutzman's lawyers, however, said they would immediately ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, according to ABC News.
ABC News reported that Stutzman got into the floral business 30 years ago —when her mother bought a flower shop — and is not currently selling wedding flowers to any customer, but if she were to start again, she would not be allowed to sell to only heterosexual couples under the ruling and the state's anti-discrimination laws.
This decision is a victory in several ways: It's certainly a win for the LGBTQ community, but it also makes this nation's non-discrimination laws even stronger because there's now one more case that can be used as precedent for future hearings.
The court held its ground on Thursday. It was unequivocally a step in the right direction.