On Thursday, the Washington State Supreme Court struck a blow against religious freedom, ruling that a religious Christian florist who wouldn’t provide flowers for a gay wedding will have to pay over $1,000 for discrimination.
Not only did the court refuse to rule against Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom’s 2015 order that fined Barronelle Stutzman $1,001 for refusing to provide flowers to Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, there wasn’t one member who dissented; the nine member court ruled unanimously for the gay couple.
Stutzman, a devout Southern Baptist, had appealed the lower court’s verdict, thus putting the state’s nondiscrimination law before state Supreme Court in Olympia for the first time.
Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote for the court, “Discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Gay rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit, rejoiced; Sarah Warbelow, legal director at the Human Rights Campaign, chortled, “This was a reasonable application of a state non-discrimination law. It’s consistent with the way that states and frankly the federal government have applied non-discrimination law across time.”
But Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, slammed the ruling, saying, “The Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling tramples on our nation’s long-held tradition of respecting the freedom of Americans to follow their deeply held beliefs, especially when it comes to participating in activities and ceremonies that so many Americans consider sacred. The time to protect religious freedom is now.”
Stutzman said Ingersoll was her customer for 10 years; she knew he was gay when she refused to provide him flowers. She asserted, “Rob can certainly believe what he would like to do on marriage, and has the right to do that. I’m just asking for the same right . . . When you think that the government is coming in telling you what to think and what to do … we should all be very, very scared . . . You know, it’s not just my freedom, it’s everybody’s freedom.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Stutzman, said they will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Four states. Alabama, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Virginia are considering bills that would businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples.