Monday, June 25, 2018

SCOTUS Dodges Anti-LGBT Florist Case, Orders Lower Court To Revisit Decision

Barronelle Stutzman
 
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule on the case of Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman who refused to create flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding in 2013.

Although SCOTUS didn’t take the case, the justices instead vacated the 2017 ruling against Stutzman by the Washington state Supreme Court and ordered the state’s top court to take another look at the case and consider the SCOTUS ruling earlier this month regarding Colorado baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop.

In that case, SCOTUS didn’t decide the central dispute which is: do anti-discrimination laws in 22 states bar “creative artist” business owners from legally discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation or do “deeply held religious beliefs” trump the rights of LGBTs?

Instead, 7 Supreme Court justices found that the Colorado state commission on civil rights appeared to show hostility towards religion in reaching its decision against the baker. In doing so, SCOTUS reversed the fine ordered on Phillips.

Today, SCOTUS told the Washington state Supreme Court to revisit the Stutzman case to see if similar anti-religious bias existed in coming to its decision regarding the florist.

In 2013, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed were planning to marry after Washington state legalized same-sex marriage the year before. But when they approached Stutzman for flowers for their event, Stutzman refused citing her Christian beliefs. Washington state’s public accommodation laws ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Stutzman was fined $1,000 and ordered to sell floral arrangements for same-sex weddings if she were to continue selling arrangements for heterosexual weddings.

Although she’s cried about financial burdens due to the ongoing court case, its important to remember that over $174,000 was raised via crowd funding for Stutzman.

GoFundMe eventually shut down the campaign based on the company’s policy that campaigns can’t be used to raise funds for legal cases where formal charges have been filed.

Stutzman was allowed to keep the $174,000.

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement in response to today's decision saying their work for LGBT equality will continue:

“The Supreme Court today asked the Washington courts to re-examine our clients’ case in light of the recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop,” said James Esseks, director of ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project. “To be clear, the court made no indication the lower courts ruled incorrectly and made no decision on the case’s merits. We are confident that the Washington State Supreme Court will rule once again in favor of the same-sex couple, and reaffirm its decision that no business has a right to discriminate. Our work to ensure LGBT equality is the law and the norm in all 50 states will continue.”

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