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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 17, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 07
State Supreme Court rules against anti-LGBT Richland florist

State has compelling interest in eradicating discrimination, justices say
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State Supreme Court rules against anti-LGBT Richland florist

State has compelling interest in eradicating discrimination, justices say

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that Pasco florist Barronelle Stutzman was correctly prosecuted and fined for refusing to create floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Stutzman claimed that she refused to sell wedding flowers to Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed for their 2013 wedding because same-sex marriage violates her Christian beliefs. In a strongly worded ruling, all nine Supreme Court justices disagreed.

'The State of Washington bars discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,' Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote for the full court in its February 16 decision.

'We therefore hold that the conduct for which Stutzman was cited and fined in this case - refusing her commercially marketed wedding floral services to Ingersoll and Freed because theirs would be a same-sex wedding - constitutes sexual orientation discrimination under the WLAD [Washington Law Against Discrimination].'

The justices also dismissed Stutzman's contention that state law violated her constitutionally protected freedom of religion by requiring her to serve same-sex couples.

'We also hold that the WLAD may be enforced against Stutzman because it does not infringe any constitutional protection,' McCloud wrote.

'As applied in this case, the WLAD does not compel speech or association. And assuming that it substantially burdens Stutzman's religious free exercise, the WLAD does not violate her right to religious free exercise under either the First Amendment or article I, section 11 because it is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government's compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.'

In a February ruling, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom found that Stutzman's refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation violated Washington's anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. She has been fined $1,000, plus $1 in court costs and fees.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who sued Stutzman, said the state's argument rested on long-standing legal principles and that reversing Ekstrom's decision would weaken the anti-discrimination law.

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State Supreme Court rules against anti-LGBT Richland florist

State has compelling interest in eradicating discrimination, justices say

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