The owner of Arlene’s Flowers Barronelle Stutzman was sued in 2013 for refusing to create arrangements for a same-sex wedding, citing her own religious objections to the practice of same-sex marriage. On June 6, her case was re-examined by the Washington State Supreme Court who ruled that her actions violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination.
Stutzman’s case has been heard in the state’s courts before. In 2013, a lower court ruled that she had discriminated against a client, Rob Ingersoll, who requested floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding. Reuters reports that she was fined $1000 and directed to provide arrangments for same-sex weddings if she does so for opposite-sex couples.
Stutzman took her case to the Washington Supreme Court, where in 2017 it was decided again that she had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law. Stutzman and her defense, Alliance Defending Freedom, appealed to the Supreme Court. In light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, the Supreme Court vacated Washington state’s high court ruling of 2017 and asked that the court take a second look at Stutzman’s case.
On June 6, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously that their previous decision was valid and not motivated by anti-religious sentiment. “We have painstakingly reviewed the record for any sign of intolerance on behalf of this court or the Benton County Superior Court, the two adjudicatory bodies to consider this case,” they wrote in their 76-page opinion. “After this review, we are confident that the two courts gave full and fair consideration to this dispute and avoided animus toward religion. We therefore find no reason to change our original decision in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop (of Colorado).”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Stutzman Had a Decade-Long Friendly Relationship with the Man Who Sued Her
Before her years of legal trouble began, Barronelle Stutzman had a friendly professional relationship with Rob Ingersoll, the client who would eventually sue her for discrimination. In a 2015 op-ed for The Seattle Times, Stutzman wrote, ” I always liked bouncing off creative ideas with Rob for special events in his life. He understood the deep joy that comes from precisely capturing and celebrating the spirit of an occasion. For 10 years, we encouraged that artistry in each other.”
She continued, “I knew he was in a relationship with a man and he knew I was a Christian. But that never clouded the friendship for either of us or threatened our shared creativity — until he asked me to design something special to celebrate his upcoming wedding.”
Also in 2015, Stutzman told Fox News that she still considers Ingersoll a friend.
2. She Is a Devout Southern Baptist
The Tri-City Herald reports that Barronelle Stutzman is a practicing Southern Baptist who objects to same-sex marriage for religious reasons. “Rob (Ingersoll) has the freedom to act on his beliefs about marriage, and I am only asking for the same freedom about religion,” she told the Herald.
Stutzman has also said she would have happily sold the couple pre-made arrangements for their wedding, but she could not make them custom bouquets, an act which she sees as artistic expression. By characterizing her work as an expression rather than a commodity, she hopes to invoke her first amendment rights to free speech.
The Washington Supreme Court, however, argued that providing a service for someone does not constitute supporting their lifestyle. In their original 2017 opinion, the court wrote, “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.”
In 2015, Fox News reported that Stutzman has decided to no longer offer floral arrangements to weddings of any kind, a decision which has hurt her business. Fox News also reported that she has received threats and hate mail since her case went public.
3. Her Case Bears Many Similarities to the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Heard Before the Supreme Court
Barronelle Stutzman’s case is often compared to another case, that of baker Jack Phillips of the Masterpiece Cakeshop. In 2012, Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, also citing his religious beliefs. In his case, Colorado courts ruled that he had discriminated against the couple on the basis of their sexual orientation. However, Phillips was able to bring his case before the Supreme Court who ruled in 2018 in his favor, stating that the Colorado court had exhibited bias against his religion.
In light of this Supreme Court decision, the Washington high court was asked to reopen Stutzman’s case to determine if anti-religion bias had influenced their decision. On June 6, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that it had not.
Stutzman’s case bears another similarity to that of Phillips. Both are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF is an Arizona-based nonprofit organization that provides legal aid to Christians who believe their religious freedoms are being impinged and need to be defended.
4. Stutzman Is a Grandmother Who Has Been in the Floral Business for Over 30 Years
Stutzman, 74, got her start in the floral industry working as a delivery person for her mother over 30 years ago. She bought her shop, Arlene’s Flowers, from her mother when old age and health concerns meant her mother needed to retire.
She has eight children, 22 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
5. Stutzman Plans to Keep Fighting, Hoping to Be Heard by the Supreme Court
In a statement on their website, the ADF claimed that if Barronelle Stutzman were to lose her case before the Washington Supreme Court, she could stand to lose her business and her retirement funds. Now that her state’s high court has ruled against her, Stutzman has vowed to keep fighting to defend her religious freedom and keep her business.
“But this case is not over,” the ADF wrote. “We will be standing with Barronelle as we petition the U.S. Supreme Court once again.” They went on to say that an anonymous donor had offered a $2 million challenge grant to raise money to cover Stutzman’s legal fees. The group is currently actively raising more money for Stutzman’s defense.