Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman was hoping that the second time would be the charm.
But after roughly eight years of standing for her freedom, two trips to the Washington Supreme Court, and two petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court, the high court announced today that it won’t hear her case.
This is devastating news. Barronelle had hoped that the Supreme Court would deliver justice and protect her freedom—and yours. Now, her future remains uncertain.
How the “Washington Florist” Became the Center of a Religious Freedom Case
Barronelle is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. And she serves everyone who sets foot in her store. This includes her longtime customer and friend Rob Ingersoll, whom she served for nearly ten years.
Barronelle loved to design beautiful and creative floral art for Rob. But when Rob asked her to design floral arrangements to celebrate his same-sex wedding, Barronelle knew that because of her Christian beliefs about marriage, she couldn’t agree.
So, she walked Rob to a quiet part of her shop, took his hand in her own, and gently told him why she couldn’t do what he asked. Barronelle then referred Rob to three local floral artists who she knew would do a good job. They chatted a few more minutes about Rob’s wedding plans, hugged, and then Rob left the shop.
Then it was over. Or so Barronelle thought.
But Rob’s partner posted about the encounter on social media. That post generated news coverage seen by the Washington Attorney General, which prompted him to file a lawsuit against Barronelle. And using unprecedented measures, he not only went after Barronelle’s business, but also sued her in her personal capacity. Later, the ACLU also joined in, filing a separate lawsuit on behalf of Rob and his partner.
Now, Barronelle may lose her business and her life’s savings. The life she and her husband worked so hard to build could be forever changed.
Barronelle’s Case May Have Ended at the Supreme Court—But There Is Hope
In 2017, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Barronelle the first time.
Later that year, Barronelle appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It then sent her case back to the Washington Supreme Court in June 2018 after the decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
In Masterpiece, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that government hostility toward people of faith has no place in society. And the State of Washington has certainly been openly hostile toward Barronelle’s religious beliefs. Just consider how the state has pursued unprecedented measures to punish Barronelle but did not file a lawsuit when another business obscenely berated and discriminated against Christian customers.
Unfortunately, the Washington Supreme Court doubled down on its first ruling against Barronelle.
And now the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Barronelle’s case means that the ruling against her will stand.
But while this may be a victory for opponents of freedom, there is hope. People like wedding photographer Bob Updegrove, web designer Lorie Smith, and many others are still standing for the freedom to live and work consistently with their faith. And Alliance Defending Freedom will continue to defend them—all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.
After all, the First Amendment’s enduring promise is that people of good will are free to live out their beliefs without facing government hostility or punishment. Whether you agree with Barronelle, Bob, and Lorie about marriage or not, you should still support their right to live and work according to their faith.
Because if they don’t have that freedom, then none of us do.
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