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Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington | Arlene’s Flowers v. Ingersoll

Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington

Settled U.S. Supreme Court
Last Updated

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

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Summary

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 will be heard by the Supreme Court this December.

Legal Documents

Court
Title
Date
U.S. Supreme Court
11/17/2021
U.S. Supreme Court
6/27/2021
U.S. Supreme Court
6/18/2021
U.S. Supreme Court
9/11/2019
State Supreme Court
6/6/2019
State Supreme Court
3/22/2019
State Supreme Court
2/13/2019
State Supreme Court
11/13/2018
U.S. Supreme Court
11/9/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
7/14/2017
State Supreme Court
7/12/2022
State Supreme Court
9/30/2016
State Supreme Court
9/30/2016
State Supreme Court
9/29/2016
Trial Court
4/27/2015
State Supreme Court
9/29/2016
Trial Court
1/21/2015
Trial Court
1/8/2015
Trial Court
8/1/2013
Trial Court
5/17/2013
Trial Court
4/18/2013
Trial Court
4/9/2013

Additional Resources

 

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

One-page summary

Campaign: Create Freely

 

Biographies

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John Bursch
John Bursch
Senior Counsel, Vice President of Appellate Advocacy
John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and three dozen state supreme court cases, and he has successfully litigated six matters with at least $1 billion at stake.
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Kristen K. Waggoner
Kristen K. Waggoner
CEO, President, and General Counsel
As the CEO, president, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, Kristen Waggoner leads the faith-based legal organization in protecting fundamental freedoms and promoting the inherent dignity of all people throughout the U.S. and around the world.