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Washington Supreme Court Hears Arguments Involving Arlene's Flowers Discrimination Case

Washington State Supreme Court
(Photo : Harvey Barrison / Wikimedia Commons / CC) Washington's Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Arlene's Flowers discrimination case against gay couples on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people were present Tuesday at the Washington Supreme Court as it heard arguments regarding a case that involves Arlene's Flowers, a flower shop which has been accused of discrimination against a gay couple by refusing to make flower arrangements for their wedding in 2013.

Florist Baronelle Stutzman had served her customers Robert Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed for a long time, but declined the offer to do flower arrangements for their wedding because it was against her religious beliefs.

The state Supreme Court was hearing Stutzman's appeal against a lower court's ruling in 2015, which said that the florist violated the anti-discrimination law and Consumer Protection Act.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said that freedom to believe and freedom to act were different.

"Ms. Stutzman for her religious expression is free to believe what she wishes," Ferguson said. "But when she engages in public accommodations and avails herself of the protections and benefits that come with being a business, there are of course responsibilities that flow from that."

The florist's lawyer argued that creative designs are expressions of the self and cannot be forced.

"It's undisputed that Mrs. Stutzman would be more than happy to sell pre-arranged flowers, flowers out of the cooler," said Stutzman's lawyer Kristen K. Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom. "Anything but the custom arrangement that requires intimate involvement in creating the expression itself."

"A Christian floral designer shouldn't be forced to create custom floral designs for a wedding that's not between a man and a woman," added Waggoner.

Members of Bellevue College's LGBTQ community expressed their support for the gay couples and the group's interests.

"We've worked so hard for our gains. This is trying to push back years and years of progress. It's disheartening," said Isaac Hopps, campus LGBTQ leader.

Prior to the hearing, Waggoner had told World magazine that it was an opportunity for the people to see that this was "about ideas, not a person."

"By suing Barronelle in her personal capacity, the government is threatening her home, her life savings, her retirement, because she doesn't agree with its ideology. That's pretty alarming," said Kerri Kupec, one of her attorneys.

Stutzman voiced her concern over the debasement of freedoms in America.

"The government is coming in and telling me what to say, what to create, what to believe. That's not America to me," Stutzman had said in a phone interview to The Seattle Times.

Attorney General Ferguson equated freedom to practice of religious belief to discrimination based on religion.

"I'm Catholic, for example. If I go to a restaurant to celebrate the first communion of my young twins with my wife, the restaurant owner should not be able to say, I'm sorry, Bob, we do not serve Catholics," Ferguson argued.

Kupec said that this kind of reasoning could lead to laws compelling people to contribute their artistic talents for causes opposed to their personal beliefs and convictions.

"Under this kind of rationale that's happening in Washington State, a gay singer could be forced by the government to perform at, say, a religious conference that is promoting marriage as a man-woman union," said Kupec.

Tags Washington Supreme Court, Arlene's Flowers, LGBTQ

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