Supreme Court won’t hear case of florist who refused to work gay wedding

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to hear the case of a Washington state florist who refused to work a same-sex wedding, leaving in place a lower court ruling that she broke state anti-discrimination laws.

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas said they would have agreed to hear the case brought by Barronelle Stutzman. However, four justices are needed to add a case to the court’s calendar.

Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Wash., was found by two lower courts to have violated the law when she declined long-time customer Rob Ingersoll’s request to provide flowers at his wedding to fiancé Curt Freed.

“I waited on Rob for ten years, and I’d wait on him for another ten years,” Stutzman told Fox News’ “Special Report” Friday night. “[B]ut my faith teaches me that marriage is between a man and a woman, and when Rob came in to ask about his wedding, that was something I could not do.”

Following an initial appeal by Stutzman, the Supreme Court in 2018 sent the case back to the state level to determine whether the initial rulings had violated the Constitution’s guarantee of religious neutrality.

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas -- said they would've agreed to hear the case.
Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas — said they would’ve agreed to hear the case.

In June 2019, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state courts did not act with animosity toward religion when finding Stutzman had violated the law. That led to another appeal by Stutzman and Friday’s rejection by the justices.

“No American should be forced to create art, express a message, or participate in ceremonies that violate their convictions,” attorney Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Stutzman, told Fox host Shannon Bream.

“What this denial does is essentially pave the way for Washington state and the ACLU to financially ruin Baronelle, but it does not set binding precedent,” Waggoner said. “And so the question and the request that we have to the Supreme Court, is again to affirm this basic principle, no matter what side of the marriage debate we’re on.”

Washington state law requires that business offer the same services to heterosexual couples and same-sex couples alike. Stutzman said that as a result, her shop is unable to provide flowers for any weddings, which she called a “financial burden.”

“But we’re still here and our doors are still open,” she added.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has issued narrow decisions in similar cases while sidestepping the broader question of whether business owners and private organizations have the absolute right to refuse service to same-sex couples on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Last month, for example, the court ruled unanimously that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment by suspending its contract with a Catholic social services agency that declined to certify same-sex couples as foster parents. Similarly, the court ruled in 2018 that Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission violated baker Jack Phillips’ First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion by ordering him to make cakes for same-sex weddings, but that ruling did not address the state’s anti-discrimination law.

“I hope the Supreme Court realizes how important this is to each of us, whether you’re religious or not,” Stutzman said Friday. “The government needs to understand that faith has been part of our constitutional rights, and I live by that. I can’t drop that off at the steps of the church.”

“I do think it begs the question of how many years people like Jack Phillips will have to litigate for their freedom,” Waggoner added, “and how many Barronelles it will take for the court and the nation to stop activists from using the law, misusing the law as an arm of cancel culture.”