In the wake of their decision on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Supreme Court has overturned a judgment against Washington state florist and Christian Barronelle Stutzman.
On Monday the court told Washington’s state supreme court to “reconsider” her case in the light of their opinion in the similar case from Colorado’s Cakeshop case.
Great news! #SCOTUS just told the Washington state court to reconsider Barronelle Stutzman’s case in light of #Masterpiece. Barronelle is the florist who served a gay couple for a decade, but couldn’t do their wedding flowers, and the state AG went after her.
— Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanTAnd) June 25, 2018
If you don’t remember what happened to Barronelle Stutzman, let’s do a quick review.
A few years ago, a homosexual couple that Stutzman had served for a decade decided to get “married.” They came to their florist, Stutzman, and asked her to handle the flowers for their “wedding.” As a devout Christian Stutzman, who was happy to serve the men on a regular basis, simply could not participate in a ceremony that blasphemed her faith. The couple sued, and won, over and over again in Washington state.
After hearing about Barronelle’s decision in the news, the Washington State attorney general decided to take matters into his own hands, and sued her. The ACLU followed close behind. Both lawsuits attack not only her business, but Barronelle personally.
Alliance Defending Freedom asked the court to dismiss the attorney general’s lawsuit since he was not personally involved in the incident, and filed a countersuit against him. They also asked the court to protect Barronelle from personal attacks from the ACLU and the state, and restrict the lawsuits to her business, Arlene’s Flowers.
The court ruled against Barronelle and ordered her to pay penalties and attorneys’ fees.
ADF petitioned the Washington Supreme Court to take up Barronelle’s case, and, in March 2016, the court agreed. Oral arguments were heard on November 15, 2016 at Bellevue College.
In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court concluded that the government can force her—and, by extension, other Washingtonians—to create artistic expression and participate in events with which they disagree.
In July 2017, ADF petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Barronelle’s case.
In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the Washington Supreme Court, after vacating that court’s decision and instructing it to reconsider her lawsuit in light of the decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court seems to be sending a signal to the courts in Washington by demanding that they “reconsider” their opinions on Stutzman’s case. If, however, Washington state doesn’t change its position, you can bet that the case will soon find its way back in front of the US Supreme Court.
Based on their decision to send the case back to Washington, and on their opinion in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, it seems like the Supreme Court is inclined to agree with Stutzman and her lawyers.
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