The Supreme Court has asked Washington courts to take another look at the case of Barronelle Stutzman, a florist who refused her services to a gay couple because of her stance on same-sex marriage.
Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, refused to sell flowers to same-sex couple Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed in 2013 because of her religious beliefs, The New York Times reported. Ingersoll and Freed, who had been buying flowers from her for years, then sued her.
Washington’s high court ruled in February 2017 that Stutzman could not claim religious beliefs as her defense under the state’s anti-discriminatory laws. Her lawyers then decided to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
Monday’s decision from Supreme Court, reported by the Associated Press, means they are passing, for now, on deciding whether business owners can use religious beliefs to refuse service to LGBT people who are protected by anti-discriminatory laws.
The justices’ order comes less than a month after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple after finding that Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s original ruling against the baker was filled with “religion animus.” The couple initially won the case in state courts.
The Supreme Court ruling earlier this month gave rise to many concerns regarding discrimination against same-sex couples in the country. Though apparently, it was not the win the right was hoping for — it was not definitively in favor of business owners denying services on basis of religion, as this present case may now indicate.
"While this decision does not change existing civil rights protections, it leaves the door wide open for religious exemptions to be used against LGBTQ people," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told USA Today regarding the ruling in the baker case.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) believes that in sending the florist case back to the lower courts, the Supreme Court might be “setting up” Washington state’s Supreme Court to “rule in favor of the couple,” according to The Hill.
“We are confident that the Washington State Supreme Court will rule once again in favor of the same-sex couple, and reaffirm its decision that no business has a right to discriminate,” James Esseks of ACLU told The Hill.
[Photo: Same-sex marriage cake toppers are on display at a store in California in December 2017. By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]