What's at stake
The freedom to operate a business according to your religious beliefs
The right of artistic professionals to express themselves without government coercion to express views with which they disagree
A longtime customer and friend of floral artist Barronelle Stutzman asked her to design and create custom floral arrangements for his same-sex ceremony. She politely told him that she couldn’t participate in the ceremony because of her religious beliefs, and she referred him to three other local florists. After the customer’s partner described the conversation on his Facebook page, other media outlets started to report on the situation.
Upon learning about the situation in the media, the Washington state attorney general filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Barronelle in both her professional and personal capacities, claiming that state law required her to create custom floral art celebrating same-sex ceremonies or give up her wedding business. Shortly after that, the ACLU also sued Barronelle on behalf of the same-sex couple. After this, Barronelle was faced with a barrage of media inquiries, hate mail and phone calls, and even death threats.
The trial court ruled against Barronelle and ordered her to pay penalties and attorney fees personally and professionally, threatening nearly everything she owns.
ADF petitioned the Washington Supreme Court to take up Barronelle’s case. In February 2017, that court concluded that the government can force her—and, by extension, other creative professionals—to create artistic expression and participate in events with which they disagree.
In July 2017, ADF petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Barronelle's case. But in June 2018, the Court sent the case back to the Washington Supreme Court, after vacating that court’s decision and instructing it to reconsider Barronelle's lawsuit in light of the victory for cake artist Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
In June 2019, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Barronelle a second time, issuing basically the same ruling as before. ADF attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court once again. The Court denied the petition, and ADF asked for reconsideration.
In November 2021, Barronelle’s case was settled after nearly a decade of fighting for her constitutional rights as an artist. In Her Own Words: Barronelle's Legal Journey Comes to an End
Stutzman, 77 and a great-grandmother, explained that she is at peace with the settlement because it allows her to finally retire with her conscience intact, to hand off her business to the exact people she wants to, and to pass on the legal torch to other artists like Lorie Smith of 303 Creative in Colorado, whose case was heard by the Supreme Court in December 2022.
Video: Watch WA Attorney General concede that Barronelle’s floral designs are a form of speech
Video: Barronelle Stutzman Oral Arguments Washington State Supreme Court 11-15-16