The Supreme Court vacated a 2017 Washington state court ruling Monday that a Christian florist violated an anti-discrimination measure when she declined to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
In an unsigned order, the high court sent the case back to the Washington State Supreme Court asking them to revisit their ruling in light of the court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in which they ruled 7-2 in favor of a Christian baker who declined to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding.
Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers, refused on religious grounds in 2013 to do flower arrangements for the wedding of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.
The Supreme Court has handed the case back to the Washington Supreme Court "for further consideration in light" of the ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, however, that ruling was very narrow in scope.
It focused primarily on the hostility of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission towards Phillips’s religious beliefs in violation of his free speech rights. It did not address generally whether businesses can decline services to same-sex weddings because of religious beliefs.
Stutzman’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner with Alliance Defending Freedom, argued in a statement Monday that the florist’s case is similar to Phillips.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has rightfully asked the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider Barronelle’s case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision,” she explained. “In that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court denounced government hostility toward the religious beliefs about marriage held by creative professionals like Jack and Barronelle. The state of Washington, acting through its attorney general, has shown similar hostility here.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing the couple in the case, is arguing that the high court’s order does not constitute a determination on the case’s merits.
“To be clear, the court made no indication the lower courts ruled incorrectly and made no decision on the case’s merits,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement.
“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,” he added. “Our work to ensure LGBT equality is the law and the norm in all 50 states will continue.”