- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court announced last week it would not take up a case over LGBT rights and religious liberty when it comes to same-sex weddings in a dispute brought by a florist.

The high court declined to hear Barronelle Stutzman’s case after she lost at the Washington Supreme Court when the state attorney general sued her for not providing flowers from her flower shop, Arlene’s Flowers, for a same-sex wedding. The American Civil Liberties Union also filed a lawsuit against the florist on behalf of the couple.

Washington’s highest court concluded she could be forced to participate in the event despite her First Amendment claim that it ran afoul of her beliefs.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty law firm representing Ms. Stutzman, took the case to the justices in 2017, but it was remanded back to the lower courts for further consideration in 2018 after the justices ruled for Jack Phillips, a Christian baker, who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding in Colorado.

But after reconsidering the case, the Washington Supreme Court again ruled against Ms. Stutzman.

She took her case back to the justices, but on Friday they declined to weigh in.

Conservative Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas would have agreed to hear the case.

It takes four justices to grant review.

Kristen Waggoner, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, said the firm will continue to fight to protect First Amendment freedoms.

“A government that can crush someone like Barronelle, who kindly served her gay customer for nearly a decade but simply declined to create art celebrating one sacred ceremony, can use its power to crush any of us regardless of our political ideology or views on important issues like marriage. Thankfully, other courts have recognized that the Constitution does not allow this,” she said. 

“We are confident that the Supreme Court will eventually join those courts in affirming the constitutionally protected freedom of creative professionals to live and work consistently with their most deeply held beliefs,” Ms. Waggoner added.

The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the court’s move to reject the legal battle. 

“No one should walk into a store and have to wonder whether they will be turned away because of who they are. Preventing that kind of humiliation and hurt is exactly why we have nondiscrimination laws. Yet 60% of states still don’t have express protections for LGBTQ people like the kind in Washington state. Our work isn’t over yet,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, an ACLU lawyer representing the same-sex couple.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson was also pleased the justices declined to take up the lawsuit. 

“This is a historic victory for equality. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not only wrong — it’s unlawful. Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court puts an end to our case, and sends a message to the entire country that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be treated equally under the law,” he said.

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

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