Olympia, Wash., Nov 14, 2018 / 10:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Attorneys representing florist Barronelle Stutzman filed their opening brief with the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday, as the court re-hears the case after its previous ruling was reversed.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a previous Washington state ruling against Stutzman, who in 2013 declined to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the Washington Supreme Court, instructing that the case be reconsidered in the light of Masterpiece Cakeshop.
In that decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Christian cake baker Jack Phillips, who had declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown an impermissible hostility toward religion in their handling of the case.
Stutzman’s attorneys have argued that a similar hostility against religion was on display in the handling of Stuzman’s case by Washington’s attorney general.
“While the attorney general failed to prosecute a business that obscenely berated and discriminated against Christian customers, he has steadfastly—and on his own initiative—pursued unprecedented measures to punish Barronelle not just in her capacity as a business owner but also in her personal capacity,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, the group defending both Phillips and Stutzman.
“In its Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Supreme Court condemned that sort of one-sided, discriminatory application of the law against people of faith,” Waggoner said.
“Also, in the legal briefs that the attorney general has filed in Barronelle’s case, he has repeatedly and overtly demeaned her faith. He has compared her religious beliefs about marriage—which the Supreme Court said are ‘decent and honorable’—to racial discrimination,” Waggoner continued.
“This conflicts with the Supreme Court’s recognition in Masterpiece Cakeshop that it was ‘inappropriate’ for the government to draw parallels between those religious beliefs and ‘defenses of slavery’.”
The Washington case centers around 73-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington.
In 2013, Rob Ingersoll, a long-time friend and customer of Stutzman, asked her to arrange flowers for his same-sex wedding ceremony.
Stutzman knew that Ingersoll was gay, and had always been happy to create flower arrangements for birthdays and other special occasions.
However, because she believes marriage to be a sign of the relationship between Christ and his Church, she told Ingersoll that she could not make a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding.
Ingersoll initially said that he understood and asked her to recommend another florist. Later, however, his partner posted a message on social media about Stutzman declining to take part in the wedding, and it went viral. Soon afterward, she was informed that she was being sued by the Washington State attorney general and the ACLU.
Stutzman, who is Southern Baptist, has said that she views weddings as more than just a job. She spends months or even years getting to know the bride and groom, to understand their vision and what they want to convey.
Because her wedding arrangements are such a deeply personal labor of love, she said that she felt that she could not in good conscience design flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against Stutzman. She then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.
While the actual damages being sought by the gay couple are only around $7 – the mileage cost of driving to another florist – Stutzman could be responsible for more than $1 million in legal fees to nearly a dozen ACLU lawyers opposing her in the case. Her home, business, savings, and personal assets are all at risk in the case.
Over the last five years, Stutzman said she has received an outpouring of support and messages of encouragement from nearly 60 countries, but also death threats that have required her to install a security system and change her route to work.
In a statement earlier this year, Stutzman said that she serves all customers, but cannot create products for events that conflict with her deeply-held religious beliefs.
She said the Washington attorney general “has always ignored that part of my case, choosing to vilify me and my faith instead of respecting my religious beliefs about marriage.”
“When the state trial court ruled against me at the attorney general’s request, I wrote the attorney general a letter urging him ‘to drop’ the personal claims that risk stripping away ‘my home, business, and other assets’,” she said.
“He didn’t do that. For him, this case has been about making an example of me—crushing me—all because he disapproves of what I believe about marriage.”
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The Stutzman case is nested very much within a recent history of populist left-wing politics in Washington state—the first state to approve abortion by public ballot (1971) two years prior to Roe v. Wade; and gay “marriage” (2012); and most recently the first to approve by public vote (again, not legislative or court) recreational marijuana (2013). And for a short while in 2014, after the $15 minimum wage was approved here, we even began to hear proposals that, as yet another “civil right,” prostitutes should be equally allowed to unionize.
The current Washington State Attorney General, who is prosecuting the Stutzman case, neatly fits this western Washington stench in his very selective choice of cases meriting his aggressive lawsuits. Very much a leftist politician seeking higher office.
As a suburban resident in the Seattle region, I have watched the Stutzman case with personal interest. We graduated in the same eastern Washington Richland High School class (the same high school that boasts James Mattis, Secretary of Defense who graduated six years later).
A complicating twist in the Stutzman case is the Attorney General’s citation of the state Consumer Protection Act. (One could say that barefoot clients can still be refused service by restaurants, but clients cannot be refused who seek gay “marriage” endorsements from florists who have souls!). The SCOTUS will have to notice/conclude, easily one would think, that this state-level legislation is overruled by national Constitutional protections.
And apart from the central arguments based on artistic expression, or even the gratuitous confiscation of “home, business and other assets” (elitist hate crime and bullying, yes?), what ever happened to those federal rulings of the 1940s allowing public school students to simply refrain from saluting the flag—the right to simply remain silent (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette and Taylor v. Mississippi”)? Do these clear legal precedents apply today to us and the rainbow flag fatwa, or not?
Jesus was invited to a Wedding at Cana. A Wedding between a man a woman. Not two men not two women Jesus turned water into wine. God made them male and female. To marry and procreate. If we agree with God then we are given a label. We must obey God no matter how others may label us. We must speak the truth. Our eternity depends on it.