QUEER VOICES

Florist Who Turned Away Gay Couple Wants Supreme Court To Hear Her Case

Barronelle Stutzman hopes to join a baker who rejected another couple's cake in court.

A Washington florist who refused to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding is hoping to take her fight to the Supreme Court. 

Arlene’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman cited her religious faith when she turned away longtime customers Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, who were seeking flowers for their nuptials in 2013. Along with the state’s attorney general, Ingersoll and Freed filed a lawsuit against Stutzman for illegally discriminating against them on the basis of sexual orientation.

In 2015, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled Stutzman, 72, had discriminated against the two men by turning them away. That decision was upheld by Washington state’s Supreme Court in February.  

On Friday, Stutzman’s attorneys filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking justices to review the February decision. “If the government can ruin Barronelle for peacefully living and working according to her faith, it can punish anyone else for expressing their beliefs,” Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, who is representing Stutzman, told The Tri-City Herald. “The government shouldn’t have the power to force a 72-year-old grandmother to surrender her freedom in order to run her family business.”

Waggoner went on to note, “Anyone who supports the First Amendment rights that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all of us should stand with Barronelle.”

The florist, who is a Southern Baptist, has argued that arranging flowers is artistic expression protected under the First Amendment. She’s hoping to have her case consolidated with that of Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, who cited his religious faith in his decision to turn away Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who were seeking a cake for their 2012 wedding.

“Not only does her case and Jack Phillips’ case involve similar issues,” Waggoner said in a statement cited by Metro-Weekly, “but both Barronelle and Jack face burdensome penalties for simply exercising their right of free expression.” 

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Phillips’ case, which is also being handled by the Alliance Defending Freedom, this fall. 

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