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Florist Who Refused to Serve Gay Wedding Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court

Barronelle Stutzman

Barronelle Stutzman says state court rulings that she violated antidiscrimination law fail to recognize her freedom of speech and religion.

Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington State florist found guilty of violating the state's antidiscrimination law by refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex couple's wedding, is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, filed her petition with the high court Friday, the Washington Blade reports. She is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, the far-right, anti-LGBT legal group that Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed last week.

The Washington State Supreme Court in February unanimously upheld the Benton County Superior Court's ruling that Stutzman violated state law by refusing to provide floral arrangements for the wedding of Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed in 2013, and that she was subject to a $1,000 fine. Stutzman has said her refusal was based on her Christian beliefs about marriage, not antigay animus, and that the state court rulings violate her freedom of speech and religion.

"Rob Ingersoll and I have been friends since very nearly the first time he walked into my shop all those years ago," she said in a prepared statement, according to the Blade. "There was never an issue with his being gay, just as there hasn't been with any of my other customers or employees. He just enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him. But now the state is trying to use this case to force me to create artistic expression that violates my deepest beliefs and take away my life's work and savings, which will also harm those who I employ. I'm not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn't promised me and every other American: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference."

"Contrary to Respondents' claims, Barronelle does not engage in sexual orientation discrimination," the petition to the high court reads. "Barronelle hires LGBT employees and serves LGBT clients on a regular basis ... and she had a 'warm and friendly' relationship with Robert for over nine years, designing dozens of arrangements for him and Curt. But part of Barronelle's wedding business involves attending and facilitating the ceremony itself and Barronelle simply could not reconcile her faith with celebrating and participating in a same-sex wedding."

The petition presents two constitutional questions, the Blade reports: "Whether the creation and sale of floral arrangements for weddings is artistic expression, and if so, whether compelling that creation violates the Free Speech Clause" of the First Amendment and "Whether the compelled creation and sale of floral arrangements for weddings and attendance of that wedding against one's religious beliefs violates the Free Exercise Clause."

The Washington State Supreme Court "held that her floral arrangements do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage," CBS News reported in February.

"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," the ruling read.

It remains to be seen if the U.S. Supreme Court, which is on summer recess, will take Stutzman's case. It has already agreed to hear a similar case from another ADF client, Masterpiece Cakeshop, which was found to have violated Colorado's antidiscrimination law by refusing to provide a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding. Her petition asks the court to hear both cases at once or to hold Stutzman's petition until the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is decided, the Blade reports.

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