Who could have ever guessed that post same-sex marriage legalization, litigation would focus on the issues of wedding cakes and wedding florists. But, now comes recent news that the case pending in Washington State involving the florist who declined to provide flowers for her friend’s gay wedding has lost her case at the state level.
As Barronelle Stutzman explained, in her own words to The Seattle Times, because she is a Christian weddings have a particular significance to her and despite her long friendship with this particular gay customer, even knowing that he was gay for many years, she simply could not provide a special arrangement of flowers for his wedding due to her religious beliefs.
I just couldn’t see a way clear in my heart to honor God with the talents He has given me by going against the word He has given us.
The Washington Supreme Court held, in unanimous decision, that her floral arrangement talents did not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.
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.
Ms. Stutzman indicates that she will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.
As I explained back in 2015, Palm Beach County’s public accommodation law was amended to greatly broaden the types of businesses covered as public accommodations. As a result, cake bakers and florists are covered by the law which means that turning away customers based on a religious basis is asking for trouble and litigation. To avoid litigation, businesses including small businesses, should serve all customers unless there is a safety or security reason not to.
Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP. Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims. You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.