Supreme Court grants appeal to florist who refused to serve gay couple

The Supreme Court has granted an appeal to a Washington florist who refused to serve a gay couple due to her religious beliefs.

Washington state flower shop owner Barronelle Stutzman has waged a lengthy legal battle over a discrimination case after refusing to serve a gay couple in 2013.

Robert Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed had been customers at her flower shop for years, but Stutzman told them she wouldn’t provide wedding flowers because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ.”

US Supreme Court (Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)

After the couple complained, state courts ruled that she violated the state’s anti-discrimination law – but she fought back, arguing that requiring her to serve gay people violates her “artistic freedom.”

Stutzman took the case to the Washington state Supreme Court before eventually bringing it in front of the federal Supreme Court in 2017.

In 2017 the state of Washington’s Supreme Court ruled that Stutzman had clearly broken the state’s anti-discrimination laws and that her Constitutional rights were not infringed.

A ruling was also made by Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C Ekstrom in February 2015, who said the florist, Arlene’s Flowers, violated consumer protections in saying she would not sell flowers to the longtime customer for their wedding due to her religious beliefs.

The florist refused to serve the couple (Creative Commons)

However, the federal Supreme Court granted an appeal to Stutzman on Monday, returning the case to the Washington Supreme Court “for further consideration in light” of the recent ruling in the case of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

On June 4, the Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling on the case, voting 7-2 in favour of Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Bakery owner Jack Phillips had launched a legal challenge to state anti-discrimination laws after refusing to serve gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig.

The baker refused to make a cake for the couple after he found out they were celebrating their wedding.

Charlie Craig (L) and Dave Mullins (R), the gay couple who were denied having their wedding cake baked (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

When originally making her case in 2013, florist Stutzman said: “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.”

In 2017, Phillips claimed that Jesus Christ would discriminate against gay people, and insists his religion requires discrimination against gay people.

Jack Phillips the owner of “Masterpiece Cakeshop”(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Both Phillips and Stutzman were represented by anti-gay law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which has sought to undermine LGBT rights protections in a number of states.

The notorious Christian group has opposed same-sex weddings, gay adoptions, civil unions, and even the repeal of Sodomy laws – strongly opposing the 2003 Supreme Court decision to strike down state laws banning gay sex.

In 2017, the Alliance Defending Freedom was designated as an anti-LGBT hate group by civil rights and extremism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center.