ADF to US Supreme Court: Washington court got it wrong, floral artist shouldn’t be forced to celebrate events that violate her faith
WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing floral artist Barronelle Stutzman filed their reply brief Friday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review in Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington and Arlene’s Flowers v. Ingersoll. Stutzman serves all customers but cannot create custom floral designs to celebrate a view of marriage that violates her faith. The brief argues that state and local governments throughout the country have threatened creative professionals in similar situations. Stutzman’s case offers the ideal opportunity to address the constitutional concerns of many in the wedding industry.
As the brief explains, Stutzman’s case “involves compelled participation, custom art, and government hostility—key issues that arise in many cases but not often all in one. Review would allow this Court to provide lower courts with guidance on all these issues and set straight a state court that simply reissued most of its prior ruling verbatim in response to this Court’s remand. Also, Barronelle’s long-time friendship with Robert, practice of designing arrangements to celebrate innumerable events for gay customers, and willingness to sell unarranged or prearranged flowers for same-sex weddings all show that First Amendment freedoms and public-accommodation laws can coexist.”
“Taking up Barronelle’s case would give the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to resolve many important legal issues left unanswered after last year’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. It would also offer the high court the chance to reaffirm that the First Amendment protects the freedom of Americans to live consistently with different views about topics as fundamental as the meaning of marriage,” said ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner, who argued on Stutzman’s behalf before the Washington Supreme Court in 2016 and who also argued for Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips before the U.S. Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Stutzman is a 74-year-old great grandmother who in September asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take her case after the Washington Supreme Court ruled against her in June. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated the state high court’s previous ruling against Stutzman and ordered it to reconsider her case in light of last year’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. The state court came back with the same result, repeating verbatim most of what it said in its original decision.
In the Masterpiece case, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Colorado’s decision to punish Jack Phillips for living and working consistently with his religious beliefs about marriage, just as Stutzman has been trying to do while enduring lawsuits from the Washington attorney general and the American Civil Liberties Union. The two sued Stutzman after she declined, because of her faith, to personally participate in—and design custom floral arrangements celebrating—the same-sex wedding of a customer she had served for nearly 10 years.
Rather than take part in an event that violates her faith, Stutzman referred Robert Ingersoll, whom she considers a friend, to several nearby florists. The two then discussed his wedding plans, they hugged, and Ingersoll left. He never filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office. The attorney general chose to pursue Stutzman because of news reports based on social media posts.
Washington’s highest court confined the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision by saying that the U.S. Supreme Court’s condemnation of government hostility toward religion applies only to “adjudicatory bodies” and does not apply to executive-branch officials like the Washington attorney general. As ADF attorneys explain in their reply brief in Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington and Arlene’s Flowers v. Ingersoll, other court decisions take the opposite approach.
The Washington court’s ruling also conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court and other court precedents by allowing the government to force individuals to participate in sacred ceremonies that violate their faith and by empowering state officials to compel artists to create custom work celebrating events to which they object. The brief explains that the state of Washington has failed to refute what recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra and Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, have to say about free speech and expression. The brief also reiterates that Washington’s ruling conflicts with other recent decisions, including Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix and Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, that protect the First Amendment freedoms of creative professionals.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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