Supreme Court declines to hear appeal from florist who refused services to gay couple

The U.S. Supreme Court is back in the news this week after turning down a highly controversial case.

According to the Washington Examiner, the high court decided not to hear arguments for an appeal from a Washington-based florist who was fined in a 2013 incident in which she refused to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding, which was prior to the 2015 landmark ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Background

The case involves florist Barronelle Stutzman, who runs Arlene’s Flowers, a Washington-based flower shop.

According to Breitbart, in 2013, Stutzman told Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed, a same-sex couple, that she was unwilling to provide floral arrangements for their wedding, as the concept of gay marriage went firmly against her Christian beliefs.

Prior to the incident, Stutzman sold flowers to Ingersoll for years, and she was reportedly aware of his sexual preference. She argued, however, that she was not interested in assisting with floral arrangements for the wedding because the wedding itself violated her Southern Baptist upbringing.

Unfortunately for Stutzman, the decision would not only land her a $1,000 fine, as Reuters reported, but it would also lead to years of litigation.

Breaking state law

Stutzman was accused of breaking Washington state’s anti-discrimination laws, which states that businesses are required to offer the same services to homosexual couples as they are straight couples.

In addition to citing her religious beliefs as her reason to deny providing floral services for the gay wedding, Stutzman argued that her floral arrangements were considered works of art, and because of that, she should have been exempt from Washington’s anti-discrimination laws.

Stutzman would ultimately be on the losing side at virtually every level of the court system in the state. The case eventually made it to the Supreme Court, and, there, in 2018, SCOTUS justices told the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider the case in light of a similar case for which the U.S. Supreme Court had just issued a decision.

Remembering the Phillips case

SCOTUS was referring to the controversial case involving a Colorado baker who refused to provide his services for a same-sex wedding cake on the grounds that it violated his religious beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually gave the baker, Jack Phillips, a victory.

One of the contributing reasons for the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Phillips case was agreement that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission directed religious animosity toward Phillips. In contrast, the Washington Supreme Court, after the high court requested that it reconsider the Stutzman case, found that there was no religious animosity directed toward Stutzman, prompting the court to uphold its decision.

By rejecting the appeal on Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court has essentially signaled that they accept the decision from the state’s highest court. It should also be noted that three of the high court’s conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, were ready to hear the case, falling one justice short of formally taking on the case.

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