Richland Florist, Attorney General respond to Supreme Court decision

Kristen Waggoner Senior Vice President with Alliance Defending Freedom who represents Richland, WA florist Barronelle Stutzman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson have commented on the 7-2  U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of a Colorado man who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.  The baker said he refused to do so on religious grounds.  Stutzman similarly refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding at her shop Arlene’s Flowers, on the same religious grounds and was sued by Ferguson.

Waggoner said “In Masterpiece Cakeshop, the U.S. Supreme Court denounced government hostility toward the religious beliefs about marriage held by creative professionals like Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman. Such hostility exists when the government treats those people of faith worse than other business owners. The state of Washington, acting through its attorney general, has done just that”

Waggoner added “While the attorney general failed to prosecute a business that obscenely berated and discriminated against Christian customers, he has steadfastly—and on his own initiative—pursued unprecedented measures to punish Barronelle not just in her capacity as a business owner but also in her personal capacity. In its Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Supreme Court condemned that sort of one-sided, discriminatory application of the law against people of faith”

“Also, in the legal briefs that the attorney general has filed in Barronelle’s case, he has repeatedly and overtly demeaned her faith. He has compared her religious beliefs about marriage—which the Supreme Court said are ‘decent and honorable’—to racial discrimination. This conflicts with the Supreme Court’s recognition in Masterpiece Cakeshop that it was “inappropriate” for the government to draw parallels between those religious beliefs and ‘defenses of slavery.’

“Barronelle, like Jack, serves all customers but declines to create custom art that expresses messages or celebrates events in conflict with her deeply held religious beliefs. The attorney general’s efforts to punish her because he dislikes her beliefs about marriage are as impermissible as Colorado’s attempt to punish Jack.”

Stutzman also  commented “I serve everyone. What I can’t do is create custom floral arrangements that celebrate events or express messages at odds with my faith. For that, the attorney general has relentlessly prosecuted me, even suing me in my personal capacity”

Stutzman said “The man who asked me to design the floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding—Rob Ingersoll—was my customer and friend for over nine years. I knew that he was gay, but that didn’t matter because I serve everyone. He enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him. I would gladly serve Rob if he were to come back to my shop today. The attorney general has always ignored that part of my case, choosing to vilify me and my faith instead of respecting my religious beliefs about marriage”

“When the state trial court ruled against me at the attorney general’s request, I wrote the attorney general a letter urging him ‘to drop’ the personal claims that risk stripping away ‘my home, business, and other assets.’ He didn’t do that. For him, this case has been about making an example of me—crushing me—all because he disapproves of what I believe about marriage.”  Stutzman said

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson commented Monday after the SCOTUS decision, “Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision may add some procedural steps to the Arlene’s Flowers case, but it will not alter its ultimate resolution.

“While we wait for next steps in our case, I want to be clear: Washington state law protects same-sex couples from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, the same way it protects Washingtonians from discrimination based on their religion, veteran or military status, disability, race and other protected classes. Nothing about today’s ruling changes that. I will continue to enforce our state law against discrimination.

“Washington law protects people from discrimination in places of public accommodation. Today’s ruling specifically notes that such laws are appropriate. All of us should be able to eat in a restaurant, rent an apartment or buy flowers without fear of discrimination based on how we worship, or who we love. If I go to a restaurant with my young twins to celebrate their First Communion, I should not have to worry about whether a restaurant will refuse to serve us because we are Catholic.

“In addition to significant factual differences in the cases, it’s important to understand that the high court’s ruling specifically relies on several items that are not present in our case. Notably, the court specifically found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of that case ‘has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility’ toward the religious beliefs of the business owner. We are confident Washington courts showed no such hostility.

“I have been clear from the beginning: My goal is to protect Washingtonians from discrimination. Before we filed our case, I sent a letter to the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, asking her to comply with Washington law, which prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

“Had she agreed to no longer discriminate, I would not have filed a lawsuit. Even after pursuing and prevailing in a lawsuit, I asked for only $1 in costs and fees. That is what the court awarded in our case, along with a modest $1,000 penalty for violating the law. That is all Mrs. Stutzman is obligated to pay as a result of the state’s lawsuit, aside from her own legal fees.

“A review of the case and our statements regarding it will find that my office has consistently said that Washington law does not allow businesses to offer services to opposite sex couples yet refuse those same services to same-sex partners. We have said my office will not stand for discrimination. Those statements are accurate.

“We do not yet know what the U.S. Supreme Court will deem appropriate in terms of next steps for the Arlene’s Flowers case.

“Often, when the high court issues a ruling on a case addressing a similar issue as other cases pending before the court, the court will issue a ‘grant, vacate, remand’ order. This means the court does not conduct any additional review of those cases to determine whether the ruling applies, but formally vacates the lower court ruling and sends the case back to the lower court for a second look. The lower court then re-evaluates the case in light of the new ruling, and determines whether that new ruling impacts the case.

“If the case is sent back to the Washington Supreme Court, I am confident they will determine that today’s ruling does not alter the conclusion of their earlier, unanimous decision upholding the civil rights of same-sex couples in our state.”