WA Supreme Court Rules Florist Violated WLAD
In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that a flower-shop owner’s refusal to provide flowers for the wedding of a gay couple violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). The couple, Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll, decided to marry after the Washington legislature legalized gay marriage in 2012. The couple had been long-time customers of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, and Mr. Ingersoll asked the owner, Baronelle Stutzman, if she would provide flowers for the wedding. She refused, citing her religious belief that marriage exists only between one man and one woman. Ms. Stutz felt that providing flowers for a gay wedding was tantamount to endorsing gay marriage. Her store then adopted a policy of refusing to provide flowers for gay weddings.
Mr. Freed and Mr. Ingersoll, as well as the State of Washington, sued Arlene’s Flowers, alleging violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Ms. Stutzman argued that her actions—refusing to provide flowers for Mr. Freed’s and Mr. Ingersoll’s wedding—were protected by the U.S. and Washington Constitutions. Specifically, she claimed that by requiring her to provide flowers for a gay wedding, the WLAD “compelled” her to endorse gay marriage, in violation of her right to free speech. She also claimed that her right to freedom of religion exempted her from complying with the WLAD and furnishing flowers for a gay wedding. Finally, she argued that requiring her to provide flowers for a gay wedding violated her right to free association. The Supreme Court rejected all of these arguments, concluding that Ms. Stutzman’s conduct violated sexual-orientation discrimination under the Washington Law Against Discrimination.