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NEW YORK A Christian florist from Washington
state vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after that
state’s top court unanimously ruled on Thursday that she
discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them
flowers for their wedding.
The Washington Supreme Court’s nine justices said that
Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland,
Washington, violated a state antidiscrimination law by refusing
service to Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, who intended to
marry after the state legalized same-sex marriage in 2012.
The court also rejected Stutzman’s argument that forcing her
to create floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding would
violate her free speech rights under the First Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution and would be tantamount to endorsing same-sex
Stutzman, a member of the Southern Baptist denomination,
believes that marriage should be exclusively between a man and a
woman. “When you think that the government is coming in telling
you what to think or what to do or what to create, we should all
be very scared,” she said in a call with reporters.
The state and the couple sued Stutzman in 2013, alleging
that she violated state anti-discrimination and consumer
protection laws. In 2015 a trial judge ruled against her,
prompting the state Supreme Court to review the case.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson called Thursday’s
ruling a “a great day for equality.”
The flower shop dispute is one several similar cases around
the United States pressed by conservatives who object to gay
marriage and say they should not be forced to violate their
religious beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide
whether to hear a case involving a Christian baker in Colorado
who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
President Donald Trump’s choice to fill the current vacancy
on the Supreme Court, conservative appeals court judge Neil
Gorsuch, could play a key role in the outcome of such a case.
His views on social issues, such as same-sex marriage, are
not clear, although he has shown strong support for religious
He is best known for playing a role in deciding a 2013 case
involving the Christian owners of the arts-and-crafts retailer
Hobby Lobby, which allowed private companies to object on
religious grounds to a federal requirement that they provide
insurance covering birth control for employees.
Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate Judiciary
Committee is to begin on March 20. (Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington, D.C.)
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