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21 Questions With Barronelle Stutzman

This is amazing. Barronelle Stutzman is the Washington florist sued by a gay man, a friend and client of almost a decade, who was outraged by her refusal to do the flowers for his same-sex wedding. Whatever you think you know about her case, I bet you don’t know a lot of things in that short three-minute video.

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62 Comments To "21 Questions With Barronelle Stutzman"

#1 Comment By M_Young On June 24, 2016 @ 3:39 am

“The other problem is if we allow these sorts of “I disapprove of gay marriages and therefore refuse to interact with couple X” where does it stop? Can a real estate broker refuse to sell to a gay couple? How about a taxicab driver? Can he refuse to give a ride to a gay couple? Or what about a hotel owner? Can the owner of a Motel 6 refuse to allow a gay couple to stay? Or an interracial couple?”

Why are you so afraid of freedom, Grumpy Realist?

#2 Comment By M_Young On June 24, 2016 @ 3:41 am

“I suggest you look at U.S.history and how black people were treated in the South when traveling.”

And yet Ella Fitzgerald, Jesse Owens, and Louis Armstrong somehow criss crossed the breadth of the land. Oh, and that ‘great migration’ thing happened too.

#3 Comment By M_Young On June 24, 2016 @ 3:43 am

“Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Christians want to change the rules.”

That’s pretty rich coming from folks who refused to accept the democratic decision of the voters of California, among other places, and went whining to the courts.

#4 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On June 24, 2016 @ 9:03 am

Adamant

Because she’s not the one getting married, the officiant, wedding party, etc. Her physical proximity to the ceremony doesn’t mean she is participating in it, agrees with or condones it. Seriously, this is just magical thinking.

Does this apply also for decorating porn movie sets, and assist to the shooting? to KKK ceremonies? To Nazi commemorations of the first turning on of Auschwitz ovens?

The objection that those are not weddings won’t hold: Mrs Stutzman is a general florist, not a wedding specialist.

#5 Comment By Steven On June 24, 2016 @ 9:42 am

The point I’m making is that Christians, when in a majority, make little effort to grant accommodations to members of minority religions who suffer inconvenience under certain laws of general applicability (e.g., blue laws). Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Christians want to change the rules.

This isn’t a matter of Christians’ special pleading, it’s a faulty analog. Blue Laws (for better or worse) didn’t force people to violate their conscience if they wished to participate in the market place. They may have restricted liberties based on an artificial corporate conscience, but no one had to actively violate their personal conscience (or pay a punitive fee) to comply with that. Most Christians I know, see blue laws as frustrating and antiquated, anyway. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who still support them, but anecdotally, I don’t know anyone who espouses a ‘blue laws for thee, free-market for me’ philosophy. No one is demanding Orthodox Jews make their delis non-Kosher, for instance (or, you know, they could just stop offering “food” as one of their services, since that seems to be where their religious hang-ups are…that would be an acceptable compromise).

The current trend, though, especially related to matters of same-sex weddings is to punish people who aren’t willing to violate their consciences.

And punishment really does seem to be the impetus. It’s hard to see these types of cases as being in good faith when the only possible outcomes I see are a) the vendor sells his soul and ends up caving to demands which cause him to violate his conscience b) the vendor holds the course, but continues to pay fines which are in no way actual substitutes for the service not provided or c)the vendor ceases categorically providing the service broadly and/or closes shop. In only one of those scenarios does the client actually obtain what he ostensibly wants, but even then, it comes at a cruel and petty price. The other two seem simply vindictive and designed to punish the seller and his other clientele.

All in the name of tolerance I’m told.

Tell me again who’s playing a bait-and-switch.

#6 Comment By sdb On June 24, 2016 @ 10:07 am

“If that’s not participation, then what is?”
Because she’s not the one getting married, the officiant, wedding party, etc. Her physical proximity to the ceremony doesn’t mean she is participating in it, agrees with or condones it. Seriously, this is just magical thinking.

The person who did the flowers for our wedding did the decorations. She didn’t just drop off a bunch of flowers, she wrote and displayed messages that contained religious content. Similarly, our wedding cake had words on it that the decorator had to write. Perhaps not your style, but also not unusual – lots of people have cutesy messages, poems, and other saccharine stuff at their reception. I can imagine that a florist or wedding cake decorator may find that providing services for some weddings will require her to write messages she finds offensive and thus may decide to pass on the commission. One should not be required to engage in expressive endeavors one finds offensive in order to stay in business.

I agree that there should be strong anti-discrimination law for non-expressive commercial transactions. The florist should be required to sell flowers to gay patrons, gay hating westboro patrons, black patrons, kkk-patrons, catholic patrons, and Jack Chick aficionados. She should not be required to create materials that express support for the views of people she disagrees with, and she should not be forced to stop expressive commercial activity in order to avoid doing so. I don’t get why this is controversial or a difficult line to draw.

#7 Comment By al On June 24, 2016 @ 1:01 pm

MichaelGC, check the dates on those actions. The state fine would have settled things except she is the one appealing. You ignore the six figure GFM proceeds she got.

#8 Comment By MichaelGC On June 24, 2016 @ 1:19 pm

Adamant says on June 23, 2016 at 6:40 pm:

And the judge ruled that the state consumer protection/non-discrimination statutes take precedence, which is what we have judges for. The ‘sentiment, belief, and worship’ clearly doesn’t apply to commercial transactions, or provide an ironclad defense against transgressions of the law. If you have a killer argument that it does, the Washington Supreme Court would love to have your amicus brief. Let us know when you’ve done that.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why people who make sweeping statements like that don’t take a few minutes to check and inform themselves before pontificating. Unlike you, I realize that I know next to nothing about law so I try find out from those who do.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh discusses religious exemption cases in the context of commercial activity [1]. The gist is that if a law substantially burdens religious practice (such as requiring people to do something that their religious beliefs forbid) then there must be a compelling government interest. If so, the government must next prove that granting an exemption to the law would inevitably and substantially undermine that compelling government interest, “not because of the commercial nature of the conduct, but because the exemption necessarily undermines a compelling government interest.”

Volokh notes that the case most often cited by the “no religious exemptions in business” faction is US v Lee, in which an Amish carpenter objected to paying the employer’s portion of the FICA tax for his employees. The Court found in 1982 that even though paying the FICA burdened the carpenter’s belief, an exemption could not be granted because the tax system could not function otherwise. There was no principled way to grant an exemption of FICA to an Amish carpenter and not grant an exemption to someone else who thought war was a sin, and therefore wanted his income taxes reduced by the same proportion of federal funds that went to the defense budget.

Volokh was discussing the Burwell v Hobby Lobby case 6 months before it was decided. He offered that the Supreme Court most likely would not accept Lee as the light that would determine the outcome of Hobby Lobby, and he was later proven right.

While it did consider Lee, the Court noted other precedent that the “exercise of religion” involves “not only belief and profession but the performance of (or abstention from) physical acts” that are “engaged in for religious reasons.” . . . Business practices that are compelled or limited by the tenets of a religious doctrine fall comfortably within that definition (i.e., definition of free exercise of religion–MichaelGC).

In that same ruling, the same Justice that brought us gay marriage wrote in a separately concurring opinion:

In our constitutional tradition, freedom means that all persons have the right to believe or strive to believe in a divine creator and a divine law. For those who choose this course, free exercise is essential in preserving their own dignity and in striving for a self-definition shaped by their religious precepts. Free exercise in this sense implicates more than just freedom of belief. . . . it means, too, the right to express those beliefs and to establish one’s religious (or nonreligious) self-definition in the political, civic, and economic life of our larger community.

Contrary to this very basic constitutional principle, you and others want people to do an Orwellian mind trick and pretend that SSM is a custom passed down from antiquity rather than a contrived novelty of the last 30 seconds. You are incredulous when all people don’t go along with SSM based on the common human experience (lately called “being on the wrong side of history”) and want the dissenters destroyed. You want them made destitute and ruined for their beliefs even though sole-proprietors clearly have a right to operate their business according to their beliefs in the same way that gay-friendly Marc Benioff operates Salesforce.com according to his beliefs and with your no-doubt robust approval.

#9 Comment By Adamant On June 24, 2016 @ 2:27 pm

Giuseppe Scalas says:
June 24, 2016 at 9:03 am

“Mrs Stutzman is a general florist, not a wedding specialist.”

And she is well within her rights to not do weddings at all, for anyone.

#10 Comment By Adamant On June 24, 2016 @ 3:07 pm

sdb says:
June 24, 2016 at 10:07 am

Then help me draw that line. You seem to posit “expressive commercial activity” as a clear bright line distinction between other forms of economic activity. I don’t think it is at all. It often frustrates me that the conversation around these matters revolves around cakes and flowers, as there is so much more than that. 3 examples below, all broadly ‘wedding’ related, all have an ‘expressive’ component to them. Which one(s) fit in your mind, and why?

1. I run a tuxedo shop, and I help select, match, fit, etc. tuxedos for those getting married.

2. I run a restaurant, and I select the menu, design the candlelit ambiance for those celebrating anniversaries.

3. I run a travel agency, and I curate unique travel experiences for honeymoons and destination weddings.

4. I run a medium sized luxury hotel: smaller than a Holiday Inn, larger than a b&b. My main revenue source is couples on their honeymoon. I design the grounds, the meals, the entertainment, to create a total honeymoon getaway experience.

Which one of these is a “non-expressive commercial transaction” and which one is not? How are we, or the next customer, gay or straight, supposed to tell the difference?

It seems that how ‘expressive’ the transaction is exists only in the mind of the person doing it, and could be applied to a huge number of what are (in my mind) plain vanilla commercial transactions. Proprietors like Mrs. Stutzman are claiming, in effect, that those non-discrimination laws don’t apply to them, and are asking, in effect, for a blank check to turn away any customer, any time, on nothing but their own say so. This isn’t a modest carve out for religious liberty, this is a gross assertion of power over minorities of all stripes. I’m sorry, but no deal.

None of which, in my mind, answers the question I put above: in what way, shape, or form, does a commercial transaction, including an expressive one, make the seller complicit in whatever the buyer is doing? This keeps getting asserted, again and again, but I think the entire notion is nonsense. In my own personal example above: a lot of my work/customers are churches. I think the beliefs and doctrines of these churches run the gamut from merely wrong to wicked. It doesn’t occur to me that my work, which has a non-trivial creative element, makes me complicit in what my customer is doing, who they are, what they believe, etc. It never occurred to me that I was empowered to refuse business on the grounds of “I think these religious whack-jobs are wicked and evil and wrong, therefore I won’t do business with them.” I would expect to get fired if I expressed this view to my employer. I would expect to get fined/sued if I was an independent contractor. If I availed myself of the same logic Mrs. Stutzman is using, I would absolutely be discriminating against someone solely on the basis of their religion, which, in my state and pretty much everywhere, I do not have the right to do.

Mrs. Stutzman shouldn’t expect it either, because selling a product, even one with a creative element to it, doesn’t commit her to believing, or condoning, or approving anything. She is perfectly entitled to believe that a SSM is wicked, wrong, contrary to God’s will. She is perfectly entitled to tell that to one of her customers. She is not, however, entititled, to decline business from a paying customers solely on grounds that are expressly prohibited (as they are in Washington State) such as race/religion/ethnicity/orientation etc.

#11 Comment By Steven On June 24, 2016 @ 4:59 pm

And she is well within her rights to not do weddings at all, for anyone.

Who would benefit from this?

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 24, 2016 @ 11:38 pm

“The other problem is if we allow these sorts of “I disapprove of gay marriages and therefore refuse to interact with couple X” where does it stop? Can a real estate broker refuse to sell to a gay couple? How about a taxicab driver? Can he refuse to give a ride to a gay couple? Or what about a hotel owner? Can the owner of a Motel 6 refuse to allow a gay couple to stay? Or an interracial couple?”

It stops well short of any of the feverish imaginations of your fertile mind.

In all of the above examples, the business owner would have to ASK “By the way, are you gay? It is against our policy to serve gay people.”

Whereas, Baronelle Stutzman’s point is not that she objects to gay people, but, that two men, or two women, do not constitute a marriage, and she will not lend her voice to saying that such a thing is possible. Her opinion is binding on nobody but herself, however, it IS binding on herself.

Those who are asking “but where does this freedom of expression end?” should try reading up on relevant Supreme Court jurisprudence before shooting off their mouths on a subject of which they clearly know nothing, but are prepared to expostulate because whatever it may be, it seems likely to be inconvenient.

Freedom of expression is not a concept made up in the last three years by troglogyte cultural conservatives. The Supreme Court of New Mexico was ONLY able to side-step this line of analysis in the Elane Photography case by intoning ‘the United States Supreme Court has never ruled specifically that these cases can apply in any commercial context, so, until it does, we don’t have to apply them.’ That could well be followed by “Nah, nah, na-NAH nah,” for all the depth of careful scrutiny and sober analysis expressed.

Mrs. Stutzman shouldn’t expect it either, because selling a product, even one with a creative element to it, doesn’t commit her to believing, or condoning, or approving anything.

Yes it does. (See how easy it is to refute a pompous axiomatic assertion? I’m not saying my flat statement is any more authoritative than Adamant, I’m just noting how empty it is to pontificate in this manner).

She is not, however, entititled, to decline business from a paying customers solely on grounds that are expressly prohibited (as they are in Washington State) such as race/religion/ethnicity/orientation etc.

And she hasn’t. She doesn’t object to the man’s sexual orientation. She’s known about it for years. She won’t grace the notion that he and another man are “married” as a participant in the celebration.

I agree that there should be strong anti-discrimination law for non-expressive commercial transactions. The florist should be required to sell flowers to gay patrons, gay hating westboro patrons, black patrons, kkk-patrons, catholic patrons, and Jack Chick aficionados. She should not be required to create materials that express support for the views of people she disagrees with, and she should not be forced to stop expressive commercial activity in order to avoid doing so. I don’t get why this is controversial or a difficult line to draw.

sdb summarizes it very well.