- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2019

A Christian florist is appealing to the Supreme Court after Washington state’s highest court ruled against her for refusing to create floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding on the grounds that doing so would violate her religion.

Barronelle Stutzman, who owns Arlene’s Flowers, first asked the Supreme Court to consider her case in 2017, but the justices sent it back to the state to reconsider last year in light of another high court ruling telling Colorado to reconsider penalties against a Christian baker in a similar case.

On Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court again ruled against Ms. Stutzman, saying the record shows she had a fair hearing the first time and was found to have violated the state’s public accommodations law, which prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation.

“The hostility my state has shown me because of my faith is undeniable and I am confident the U.S. Supreme Court will see that viewpoint,” Ms. Stutzman said in announcing her appeal.

The Supreme Court ruled last year for Jack Phillips, a Christian baker, who had refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding, saying the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with religious animus when investigating the baker’s actions.

Specifically, the court took issue with a member of the commission comparing Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs to defense of the Holocaust or slavery.

Mr. Phillips argued his freedom of speech as an artist was being trampled by being forced to bake a cake with a message he opposed; Ms. Stutzman made the same First Amendment argument.

The Washington Supreme Court, though, in an opinion issued Thursday said Ms. Stutzman’s situation was different because she was given a fair hearing and the record did not show animus toward her religious beliefs.

“We are confident that the two courts gave full and fair consideration to this dispute and avoided animus toward religion. We therefore find no reason to change our original decision,” the court ruled.

The case rose out of a request from Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed who asked Ms. Stutzman to provide the flowers for their wedding celebration in 2013.

Though she worked with Mr. Ingersoll previously, selling him thousands of dollars in flowers and developing a friendship, Ms. Stutzman refused to participate in the wedding, citing her Christian beliefs. She is a member of a Southern Baptist church.

Hurt by the refusal, Mr. Freed took to social media to express his feelings and frustration. The Facebook post became widely circulated and the state of Washington ended up suing Ms. Stutzman.

John Bursch, an attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom who represents Ms. Stutzman, said the state never received a formal complaint against her, but the attorney general decided to pursue the legal action on his own, suggesting religious hostility.

The Supreme Court will likely consider in December or January whether to hear Ms. Stutzman’s case.

The justices have also been deciding whether to take a similar case out of Oregon.

Melissa and Aaron Klein had to close their bakery after the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries fined them more than $130,000 for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding, saying the couple violated the state’s public accommodations law.

Their appeal has been under review by the justices for more than four months.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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