Thursday, February 16, 2017

Washington Supreme Court unanimously affirms trial court and finds Barronelle Stutzman personally liable

Barronelle Stutzman
Thursday morning the anti-LGBT hate group, Alliance Defending Freedom, loses yet another attempt to carve out a religious exemption to a nondiscrimination law. By now you are probably all familiar with the self-righteous and bigoted  Washington State florist, Barronelle Stutzman who decided that she had the right to violate state law by refusing to sell flowers to be used at a same-sex wedding. Stutzman lost at trial and has now lost her appeal before the state's highest court.

The Washington Supreme Court dismissed every one of Stutzman's arguments in favor of permissible discrimination. Perhaps the most important of these is the assertion by ADF that Stutzman did not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation but, rather, had a religious objection to same-sex marriage.

The Court noted (to some amusement on my part) that ADF trotted this out in at least two similar cases; Elane Photography and Masterpiece Cake Shop. ADF was unsuccessful in both for the same reasons that they are now unsuccessful in Washington: Attacking the conduct associated with a protected class is an attack on the protected class. Refusing to serve a same-sex marriage constitutes anti-gay discrimination which, in this case, is against the law.

The Court thoroughly rebuked the argument that the merchandise was available elsewhere. The intent of the law is to prevent discrimination.

The Court also ruled that Stutzman's floral arrangements did not constitute artistic expression (one of ADF's favorite tropes). Futhermore, the Court held that Stutzman's First Amendment freedom of speech was not compromised as compelled speech nor does the Washington law compromise Stutzman's freedom of association. The Court held that the Washington law does not infringe upon Stutzman's right to free exercise of religion “because it is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government's compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.”

Get ready for the proforma boo-hoos because Stutzman was found personally liable. In addition to the Washington AG there remains private litigation by Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. They were deeply affected by the denial of service. As the Court notes:
As a result of the "emotional toll" Stutzman's refusal took on Freed and Ingersoll, they "lost enthusiasm for a large ceremony" as initially imagined. Id. at 1490. In fact, the two "stopped planning for a wedding in September 2013 because [they] feared being denied service by other wedding vendors." I d. at 351. The couple also feared that in light of increasing public attention-some of which caused them to be concerned for their own safety-as well as then-ongoing litigation, a larger wedding might require a security presence or attract protesters, such as the Westboro Baptist group.

So they were married on July 21, 2013, in a modest ceremony at their home. There were 11 people in attendance. For the occasion, Freed and Ingersoll purchased one bouquet of flowers from a different florist and boutonnieres from their friend. When word of this story got out in the media, a handful of florists offered to provide their wedding flowers free of charge.
Stutzman deserves to be cleaned out. We will hear about how the elderly grandmother could lose her home. Her age is irrelevant. This matter could have been settled long ago on very modest terms. She ruined the couple's wedding an now she should pay.

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