A Richland florist who refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding violated anti-discrimination law, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The court ruled unanimously that Barronelle Stutzman discriminated against longtime customers Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed when she refused to do the flowers for their 2013 wedding because of her religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Instead, Stutzman suggested several other florists in the area who would help them.
“We’re thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. The court affirmed that we are on the right side of the law and the right side of history,” Ingersoll and Freed said in a statement.
Stutzman and her attorneys said they would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also held out hope that President Donald Trump would issue an executive order protecting religious freedom, which was a campaign pledge.
Stutzman called the ruling “terrifying when you think the government is coming in and telling you what to think and what to do.”
I would be surprised if SCOTUS agreed to hear the case, but who knows?
Here is a key part of the ruling:
The decision to either provide or refuse to provide flowers for a wedding does not inherently express a message about that wedding. As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism.
A wedding between Muslims or atheists is still a wedding between a man and a woman, which Stutzman believes to be good. Because she is a Southern Baptist, she believes that same-sex couples cannot marry, and that homosexuality is in some sense sinful. What same-sex couples do is not analogous to what sexually complementary couples of other religions, or no religion at all, do. You may believe her to be wrong, but unlike racism, hers is a religious belief that is deeply rooted in the Bible, as well as in history and anthropology. It was not even a matter of significant controversy until recent decades.
The Court seems to believe that homosexuality is in the same category as race: morally insignificant. No orthodox Christian can believe that. I don’t think that orthodox Christianity requires one to refuse to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, but it’s not my place to tell another Christian (or Jew, Muslim, Hindu, et al.) that they have to violate their conscience to do so, any more than I have the right to tell her that she must violate her conscience by arranging flowers for the wedding of a man and a woman who have been living together prior to marriage, however prudish I may find that to be. Because sexuality is categorically different.
Anyway, that’s that. Never mind that Stutzman knew her customer, Rob Ingersoll, was gay, and had been kindly serving him for a decade or so. In this story in the Christian Science Monitor, Ingersoll talks about how Stutzman, a gentle grandmother (I met her last year), broke the news to him:
As part of the preparations, Ingersoll went to his favorite florist to ask her personally if she would handle the flowers.
At that brief meeting, Stutzman reached across the counter and took hold of Ingersoll’s hand. He would later recall to Freed the words she used: “You know I love you dearly. I think you are a wonderful person, but my religion doesn’t allow me to do this.”
In response to Ingersoll’s request for a referral, she suggested three local florists from among a dozen flower shops in the area. They talked a bit more, then hugged, and Ingersoll left the shop.
So he went and got the ACLU on his side, and he sued the hateful hag. Because #lovewins™, or something.
David French, who is a lawyer, describes the injustices that the Washington courts have inflicted on Barronelle Stutzman on behalf of these two spiteful narcissists:
The pretext for overriding the florist’s rights to free speech and religious liberty was Washington’s so-called “public accommodations law,” which required the owner, Barronelle Stutzman, to provide goods and services to customers “regardless” of their sexual orientation.
Let’s be clear, according to the plain language of the law and the undisputed facts of the case, Stutzman did nothing illegal. She had always consistently and joyfully served gay clients, including the man who ultimately decided to bring potentially ruinous legal claims against her. On each of those prior occasions, however, she was not using her artistic talents to help her clients celebrate an occasion she considered immoral.
In other words, she was not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. She was making a decision not to help celebrate an action, a form of expression. She would no more celebrate a gay wedding than she would any form of immorality, gay or straight. To dispense with her argument, the court did what numerous progressive courts have done: It rewrote the law. It rejected what it called the “status/conduct” distinction, and essentially interpreted the word “orientation” to also mean “action.”
To understand how nonsensical and dangerous this is, one need merely apply it to other categories of expression. Is it now racial discrimination to refuse to bake a cake with Confederate flag icing, since the person asking for such a cake will almost always be white? Is it gender discrimination for fashion designers to refuse to “dress” Ivanka or Melania Trump? They’re women, after all.
French says that the state Supreme Court compared what Stutzman did to Jim Crow. It’s fatuous nonsense. French points out that in the segregated South, black Americans were widely denied access to goods and services. Here?:
The gay couple in this case had no trouble finding flowers. Stutzman even recommended other florists who would have been happy to help them celebrate their wedding. So, given the absence of any real harm, the court said that the state had a compelling state interest in punishing the “independent social evil” of discrimination toward a “broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace.”
That’s it right there: the state religion. It reserves for itself the exclusive ability to name, define, and eradicate “social evils,” and heaven help the individual citizen who disagrees. There is no need to show a traditional, legally recognized harm. There is no need to prove lack of access to alternative artistic expressions. There is only the need to show that the business owner won’t use her unique talents to help celebrate the sexual revolution.
Last summer, I met Barronelle Stutzman, and interviewed her. Look at and listen to this video of her to get a sense of the kind of woman she is. When I was with her, the serenity of her bearing conveyed the granite strength of her religious conviction. This Southern Baptist woman shall not be moved. The state court has made it possible for the plaintiffs to sue her personally to cover their legal fees, which will probably go up to a million dollars. Understand: they aren’t satisfied to destroy this 72-year-old woman’s livelihood, but they also want to bankrupt her.
Because #LoveWins, always.
I am deeply aware of how scandalous, even how obscene, it seems to speak of martyrdom from within the relative safety and prosperity of the liberal West, while so many of our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world are dying for the faith. I have no answer to this powerful objection, and so I am also aware of the famous remark of Wittgenstein, “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” And yet the suffering of a Barronelle Stutzman does not become less real simply because liberal order has perfected the art of bleeding its victims slowly and invisibly through ten-thousand bureaucratic paper cuts, rather than with the sword or lions in the Colosseum. Certainly we must be grateful for that, and yet there is a peculiar challenge for Christian faith and witness in the fact that liberal order diffuses its power quietly, almost imperceptibly, without blood or spectacle or responsibility. It creates a real possibility that one’s sufferings may be visible only to God, so that it will always be possible to say, as many of our Catholic brethren seem only too eager to say, “Move on, there is really nothing to see here.”
Attention must be paid. What they do to her today, they will do to you tomorrow. Count on it. Will you and I have the courage to pay the price Barronelle Stutzman is paying? Will you and I at least stand with her and help her pay the financial cost her persecutors will levy on her? In The Benedict Option, I write:
A Christian family might be forced to sell or close a business rather than submit to state dictates. The Stormans family of Washington state faced this decision after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a state law requiring its pharmacy to sell pills the family considers abortifacient. Depending on the ultimate outcome of her legal fight, florist Barronelle Stutzman, who declined for conscience reasons to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, faces the same choice.
When that price needs to be paid, Benedict Option Christians should be ready to support one another economically—through offering jobs, patronizing businesses, professional networking, and so forth. This will not be a cure-all; the conversion of the public square into a politicized zone will be too far-reaching for orthodox Christian networks to employ or otherwise financially support all their economic refugees. But we will be able to help some.
Given how much Americans have come to rely on middle-class comfort, freedom, and stability, Christians will be sorely tempted to say or do anything asked of us to hold on to what we have. That is the way of spiritual death. When the Roman proconsul told Polycarp he would burn him at the stake if he didn’t worship the emperor, the elderly second-century bishop retorted that the proconsul threatened temporary fire, which was nothing compared with the fire of judgment that awaited the ungodly.
If Polycarp was willing to lose his life rather than deny his faith, how can we Christians today be unwilling to lose our jobs if put to the test? If Barronelle Stutzman is prepared to lose her business as the cost of Christian discipleship, how can we do anything less?
That passage comes from the Work chapter of the book, which focuses in large part on preparing ourselves for earning a living in an environment in which we will not be allowed to hold certain jobs or enter certain fields. Folks, it’s getting real now. And so had we better.
Let this inspire you: