[2/16/17] The nine judges on the Washington state Supreme Court – Mary Fairhurst, Charles Johnson, Barb Madsen, Susan Owens, Debra Stephens, Charles Wiggins, Steve Gonzalez, Sheryl McCloud and Mary Yu – have decided they can order a citizen to violate her Christian faith.
Affirming the aim of “eradicating discrimination,” McCloud wrote in her opinion that the state’s nondiscrimination law takes precedent over religious belief, even if it “substantially burdens” constitutional, religious, free-exercise rights.
The case is over Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman’s refusal to support same-sex “marriage” with her artistry. She was sued by the state for her decision, which was based on her sincerely held religious faith.
Stutzman’s advocates immediately announced they will seek a review at the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a decision “that concluded that the government can force her – and, by extension, other Washingtonians – to create artistic expression and participate in events with which they disagree.”
The Richland, Washington, artist is represented by attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“This case is about crushing dissent. In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who argued before the court together with co-counsel George Ahrend in November of last year. “It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees.”
She continued: “Our nation has a long history of protecting the right to dissent, but simply because Barronelle disagrees with the state about marriage, the government and ACLU have put at risk everything she owns. This includes not only her business, but also her family’s savings, retirement funds, and home. It’s no wonder that so many people are rightly calling on President Trump to sign an executive order to protect our religious freedom. Because that freedom is clearly at risk for Barronelle and so many other Americans, and because no executive order can fix all of the threats to that freedom, we will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case and reverse this grave injustice.”
It was a lower court in Washington state that ordered her to pay penalties and attorneys fees in the case brought by longtime customer Rob Ingersoll, who wanted her to provide her artistry for a same-sex “wedding.”
She declined, instead referring Ingersoll, whom she considers a friend, to other florists.
“Rob Ingersoll and I have been friends since very nearly the first time he walked into my shop all those years ago,” said Stutzman. “There was never an issue with his being gay, just as there hasn’t been with any of my other customers or employees. He just enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him.