The United States Supreme Court has once again declined to hear a case regarding whether marriage vendors can refuse to provide services at same-sex marriage ceremonies based on their beliefs First Amendment religious.
The case – Arlene’s Flowers Inc. v. Washington – came on appeal from the Washington Supreme Court, which upheld a lower court ruling that a florist’s refusal to provide flowers for a same-sex marriage violated anti-discrimination law. The case began in 2013 when Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed attempted to hire Arlene’s Flowers for their wedding after Washington State recognized the same-sex marriage in 2012. Ingersoll, who was a long-time client of the florist, was informed by flower shop owner Barronelle Stutzman that she could not provide the flowers for the wedding “because of her relationship with Jesus Christ”.
Washington State and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the florist for discrimination on behalf of Ingersoll and Freed and won at trial and again in the Washington Supreme Court. Stutzman appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 and filed an additional brief in June 2020 following the High Court ruling in Fulton v. Philadelphia that Philadelphia had violated the First Amendment rights of a Catholic foster care agency by requiring the agency to accept same-sex couples as foster parents.
In 2018, the Supreme Court bypassed the issue of religious objections to same-sex marriage by Master Cakeshop Ltd. vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where the court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who refused to provide a personalized wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission case against the Baker was tainted with anti-religious bias, leaving questions of religious objections and the First Amendment unanswered.
While three judges voted to hear Arlène’s flowers, that was one vote less than the total needed for the High Court to grant certiorari.