Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Stutzman Show: A skeptical Washington Supreme Court hears the bigoted florist's appeal

\Barronelle Stutzman
I watched the live feed of oral arguments before the Washington Supreme Court regarding Barronelle Stutzman. The Washington Floral Bigot refused service to a gay couple for their wedding. Her attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom are claiming that her service would constitute compelled speech because of her artistic expression. According to ADF everyone is an artiste.

One of the justices asked if that might apply to a bartender. Another asked if it might apply to a stationer. Basically ADF was asking the Court to carve out an exemption to Washington's nondiscrimination law. As a matter of common sense, no one attending a same-sex wedding would conclude that the florist, the chair rental, the caterer, the waiters or anyone else involved were endorsing same-sex marriage. What they were endorsing was a business transaction.

Washington AG, Bob Ferguson, seemed unprepared for some of the questions he was asked but he got his point across. The law regarding public accommodations is unambiguous and the government has a compelling interest in promoting nondiscrimination. Moreover, prior service is irrelevant. If you turn down a gay wedding that constitutes anti-gay discrimination.

One bit of argument from the Washington AG confirmed something that I had gleaned (and previously mentioned) from some of the filings. There was no civil discussion. As one of the men (Bob Ingersoll) started to request flowers, Stutzman immediately cut him off and there was no further discussion. Forget about the notion of “politely declining” service. It was more like “we don't serve your kind here.”

Stutzman's spontaneity suggests to me (possibly not to others) that she was just waiting to be asked so that she could have an opportunity to decline service to a gay marriage. This further suggests that ADF had been active in the area, trolling wedding vendors once Washington became a marriage equality state on December 6, 2012. In other words, Stutzman was a determined self-manufactured victim ⸺ a martyr for the faith with encouragement from ADF.

Ultimately, I expect the Court to uphold the lower court's ruling. I then expect ADF to petition the Supreme Court of the United States which will, in all likelihood, decline to hear the case. Even with Scalia alive, the Court refused to hear the similar case of Elane Photography in which the Supreme Court of New Mexico held that the wedding photographers engaged in anti-gay discrimination when the refused to film a commitment ceremony.

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