US Supreme Court sends case of WA florist back to Olympia

Arlenes flowers sign KIMA.jpg
The US Supreme Court has remanded the case of Richland WA flower shop owner, Baronelle Stutzman, back to the lower courts in Washington. Stutzman owns Arlene's Flowers and is appealing her case based on religious freedom grounds after she was charged with civil rights violations for declining to serve a customer for a gay wedding ceremony .{ } (photo: KEPR TV){ }

The United States Supreme Court ordered the case of a Washington florist, Baronelle Stutzman, back to the Supreme Court of Washington, declining to hear the appeal but remanding it for new review in light of the High Court's recent decision involving a Colorado baker.

Both cases revolve around a business owner declining to serve a customer regarding a gay wedding ceremony. In Stutzman's case, she declined to serve a gay customer who wanted her to present and arrange flowers at a gay wedding. Stutzman said her religious beliefs prevented her from participating in such an event. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson ultimately sued Stutzman for discrimination. Stutzman lost both a lower court ruling and a Supreme Court of Washington appeal. That's when she and her legal team appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the Associated Press, the justices' order Monday means the court is passing for now on the chance to decide whether business owners can refuse on religious grounds to comply with anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people.

That's the same issue they confronted, but ultimately passed over, in the recent ruling in favor of a Colorado baker who also objected to same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

It's not clear from the record that the Washington Supreme Court will evaluate Stutzman's case any differently in light of the Colorado ruling.

There are no similar allegations that bias affected the state court decisions, and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the recent Supreme Court ruling will have no effect on the case against Baronelle Stutzman and her Arlene's Flowers store in Richland, Washington.

But the Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Kristen Waggoner, who represents Stutzman, said Ferguson "pursued unprecedented measures to punish Barronelle not just in her capacity as a business owner but also in her personal capacity."

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