The U.S. Just Punted on What Was Expected to Be the Next Big LGBT Discrimination Case
Today the U.S. Supreme Court has referred a case involving religiously-motivated anti-gay discrimination back to the Washington State Supreme Court for re-examination. The case involves an anti-gay florist from Washington state called Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts who, in 2013, denied a floral arrangement for a male same-sex couple’s wedding.
The case was set to finally decide whether state anti-discrimination laws violate the Constitutional right to free speech — the store’s owner claimed that creating the arrangement would force her to endorse something she has religious convictions against.
But in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent narrow ruling in favor of the anti-gay Colorado bakery known as the Masterpiece Cakeshop, the court has told the Washington State Supreme Court to determine whether the state of Washington expressed any anti-religious sentiment whatsoever when handling the florist’s case.
If they do find evidence of such, they’ll likely say that Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts was treated unfairly and will vacate the earlier ruling against the shop.
However, if they don’t find evidence of anti-religious sentiment, the court will simply rule against the anti-gay florist again, setting up a Supreme Court showdown on this particular issue.
Here’s what happened in the case of the anti-gay florist
Gay couple Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed had been regular customers of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts for nine years before they went into the store in 2013 and requested a flower arrangement for their wedding. The shop’s owner, Barronelle Stutzman, refused, saying that as a Southern Baptist it’d violate her religious beliefs and “her relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Washington has a law forbidding businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, so the state and the couple each sued Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts as violating the law. Both cases were eventually turned into a single case against Stutzman’s shop.
In February 2017, the Washington State Supreme Court found unanimously against Stutzman. Stutzman has appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which made its decision in how to proceed today.