Washington State Supreme Court Rules Florist Broke Anti-Discrimination Law

Feb 16, 2017
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The Supreme Court in Washington state has ruled unanimously that a florist broke the state's anti-discrimination law. The florist had refused to provide arrangements for a same-sex wedding, arguing that she shouldn't be compelled to do something against her religious beliefs. Here's Anna King of the Northwest News Network with more.

ANNA KING, BYLINE: The same-sex couple married without the help of Arlene's Flowers back in 2013, but since then, the couple and the florist have been in a legal fight. Rob Ingersoll, one half of the couple, says he's relieved.

ROB INGERSOLL: Young, gay individuals that may not have the support of their families or communities are very fragile. And we don't want ever to have them or anybody discriminated again.

KING: That sentiment was echoed by Washington's attorney general, Bob Ferguson. He says Arlene's Flowers in Richland doesn't have to sell wedding flowers at all.

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BOB FERGUSON: However, if they choose to sell wedding flowers, they cannot choose to sell wedding flowers only for heterosexual couples and deny that same service to gay couples.

KING: The florist's name is Barronelle Stutzman. Her lawyer argues that making flowers is a form of free speech and artistic expression, and she shouldn't be compelled by the state to act against her religious beliefs. Stutzman says, as a Christian, marriage is between one man and one woman. However, the couple had been longtime customers of hers.

BARRONELLE STUTZMAN: I knew Rob was gay for all those years, and it made no difference to me. I chose not to participate in one event, and that's what this is all about.

KING: Stutzman's lawyers say they plan to appeal her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 2014, the high court declined to hear a similar case from New Mexico. There, the state Supreme Court ruled that it was against the law for a wedding photographer to refuse a same-sex couple. For NPR News, I'm Anna King in Richland, Wash. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.