- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Washington Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a florist penalized for declining to prepare floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

The court will take up the appeal of Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, who has been at the center of a high-profile legal battle pitting the First Amendment free exercise of religion against the state’s anti-discrimination law.

Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Kristen Waggoner said Thursday that Ms. Stutzman “and many others like her around the country have been willing to serve any and all customers, but they are understandably not willing to promote any and all messages.”

“We hope the Washington Supreme Court will affirm the broad protections that both the U.S. Constitution and the Washington Constitution afford to freedom of speech and conscience,” Ms. Waggoner said.

So far, Christian small-business owners have struck out in their efforts to fight rulings ordering them to provide services for same-sex ceremonies.

In a similar case involving a wedding photographer, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in favor of the same-sex couple in a 2013 decision, saying photographer Elaine Huguenin must take pictures for gay marriages if she does so for other marriages as “the price of citizenship.”

The U.S. Supreme Court declined her request for an appeal in 2014, leaving Ms. Huguenin with a $6,637.94 bill for the attorneys’ fees of Vanessa Willock, the woman who filed the complaint with the state Human Rights Commission.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Ms. Stutzman in 2013 after she declined to provide custom floral arrangements for a longtime customer, Robert Ingersoll, citing her religious beliefs.

In a March 27 ruling, a county superior court judge fined her $1,000 plus another dollar for attorney’s fees.

“I knew he was in a relationship with a man, and he knew I was a Christian,” said Ms. Stutzman in a Nov. 9 op-ed in the Seattle Times. “But that never clouded the friendship for either of us or threatened our shared creativity — until he asked me to design something special to celebrate his upcoming wedding.”

As a Christian, she said, “weddings have a particular significance.”

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