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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 13, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 37
She's baaaack... Richland florist petitions SCOTUS for right to discriminate, Round II
Section One
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She's baaaack... Richland florist petitions SCOTUS for right to discriminate, Round II

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Baronelle Stutzman, the anti-LGBT Richland florist, is at it again. For the second time, she has petitioned the US Supreme Court for the right to discriminate against potential LGBT customers because of her 'religious beliefs.'

In 2015 Stutzman was convicted of violating Washington state law by refusing to sell a wedding arrangement to a Gay couple, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. She appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled in 2017 that she was indeed guilty and liable to a fine of $2,000.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson personally argued the case before the state Supreme Court, explaining that state law forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for all businesses, regardless of the religious beliefs of the owners.

Stutzman appealed to the US Supreme Court, which was also hearing the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. In that lawsuit, Colorado baker Jack Phillips was seeking a First Amendment right to refuse to make custom-made wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

In the Masterpiece case (2018), the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips, but only on the narrow grounds that one member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission made remarks that gave evidence of an anti-religious bias.

Shortly afterward, the high court vacated the Washington Supreme Court decision against Stutzman and ordered the court to review its decision in light of the Masterpiece ruling. In other words, the Washington state court was to decide whether there was anti-religious bias in its previous ruling against Stutzman.

The Washington state Supreme Court reviewed the case again and reached the same conclusion: Stutzman was in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, and there was no anti-religious bias, because the law barred discrimination against LGBT customers regardless of the ideological basis for it.

Representing Stutzman is the anti-LGBT legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The ADF filed the petition Wednesday shortly before the Supreme Court will determine what cases it will hear for its upcoming term at its annual 'long conference.'

Now Stutzman has petitioned the US Supreme Court for a second time, arguing that the state Supreme Court wants to destroy her business because she is a Christian.

Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the legal division at the ADF, said in a statement that her client serves all people but cannot 'take part in, or create custom floral arrangements celebrating, sacred events that violate her religious beliefs.'

'Because of this, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a ruling that threatens Barronelle with personal and professional ruin,' Waggoner said. 'Regardless of what one believes about marriage, no creative professional should be forced to create art or participate in a ceremony that violates their core convictions. That's why we have taken Barronelle's case back to the US Supreme Court.'

Jennifer Pizer, law and policy director for Lambda Legal, said the new petition constitutes an 'unsurprising recycling of arguments' the Alliance Defending Freedom made in earlier petitions to the high court.

For example, Pizer said, Stutzman argues 'that arranging flowers for a wedding is actually 'participating' in the wedding...

'But the difference between vendors and the wedding party and guests is obvious to most people,' Pizer continued. 'The threat to civil rights laws should be, too. Because if flowers, why not the food, the custom clothing, a limo to the venue? These cakes and flowers cases are attempting to pry open a door to marketplace discrimination that the Supreme Court has kept firmly closed so far.'

The US Supreme Court is under no obligation to hear Stutzman's second petition. If four of the nine justices wish to hear the case, the court will 'grant certiorari,' or take on the case. If they do so, they will then schedule oral arguments. In that case, he final disposition of the petition may take one or more years.

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