Washington florist who refused to serve a same-sex marriage to pay the settlement and retire | Catholic National Register


“I never had to compromise my conscience or go against my faith. I have met so many nice and wonderful people, who generously offered me their prayers, encouragement and support.

RICHLAND, Wa. – Christian florist who was sued after refusing to create flower arrangements for a same-sex marriage ceremony and then spent eight years in court will pay a small settlement and retire, rather than seek a another hearing at the Supreme Court of the United States.

“I am ready to hand over the legal struggle for freedom to others. At 77, it’s time to retire, ”said Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., On Nov. 18.

“I never had to compromise my conscience or go against my faith. I have met so many nice and wonderful people, who generously offered me their prayers, encouragement and support.

In 2013, the florist refused to make flower arrangements for the same-sex marriage of client and longtime friend Rob Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed. She said that as a Christian she believed that such a union would violate her faith and that she could not make a flower arrangement for a same-sex marriage. Stutzman referred Ingersoll to several nearby florists.

“I had always been happy to sell her bouquets of flowers,” Stutzman said in her November 18 letter. Celebrating her marriage to another man, she said, “was a line I couldn’t cross, even for friendship.”

“I am a Christian and I believe the Bible is the Word of God. This Word clearly shows that God loves all men so much that he sent his Son to die in their stead, ”she said. “And it also teaches that he designed marriage to be just the union of a man and a woman. I couldn’t take the artistic talents that God Himself gave me and use them to contradict and dishonor His Word.

Although Ingersoll did not file a complaint with the state, he and Freed went on to sue Stutzman through the American Civil Liberties Union. The Washington state attorney general filed a discrimination complaint against her.

Stutzman, represented by lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group, fought the legal complaints. Her lawyers feared the ACLU lawsuit would force her to pay potentially ruinous legal fees.

Under the settlement, it will withdraw the pending petition for a new hearing in the United States Supreme Court. She will donate $ 5,000 to Ingersoll and Freed.

“This settlement ends a lengthy legal process, not a change or abandonment of Barronelle’s beliefs,” said Kristen Wagoner, general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, on November 18.

“For the past eight years, Barronelle has championed the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans, even those who disagree with her on a deeply personal and important issue like marriage. And in doing so, she has inspired millions more in their own public and personal battles to live out their faith without government interference.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit released their own statement.

“We are pleased that the decisions of the Washington Supreme Court remain in effect to ensure that same-sex couples are protected from discrimination and should be served by businesses like anyone else,” said Ingersoll and Reed, according to CNN. “It was painful to be turned away and we are grateful that this long journey for us is finally over.”

They said they would donate the $ 5,000 to a local LGBT advocacy and support group.

In 2017, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against Stutzman. In June 2018, the United States Supreme Court overturned the decision and referred the case back to the state Supreme Court, ruling that the Stutzman case should be reconsidered in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Court ruling.

In that decision, the court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated constitutionally unacceptable hostility to religion by ruling that Masterpiece Cake Shop baker Jack Phillips violated anti -discrimination for refusing to bake a gay marriage cake on the basis of his Christian beliefs.

In June 2019, the Washington Supreme Court ruled again against Stutzman, saying the lower courts had not acted with impermissible hostility towards his religious beliefs. In the opinion of its lawyers, the state Supreme Court rendered largely the same decision it had previously, despite the order of the United States Supreme Court to reconsider the case in light of ‘a new decision.

In September 2019, Stutzman’s lawyers asked the United States Supreme Court to hear his case a second time. They argued that the state court had indeed excused religious hostility from a state executive official. The lawyers said the Supreme Court “should reaffirm that the free exercise clause binds all state actors, not just arbitrators.”

In July 2021, the Supreme Court refused to hear his case, despite objections from Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. His lawyers had filed a motion to rehear the case, which must be withdrawn under the settlement.


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