Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Washington Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Florist's Refusal of Flowers For Gay Wedding

The state of Washington's Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments in Ingersoll v. Arlene's Flowers, Inc.  At issue is a decision by a state trial court holding that a florist shop and its owner violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the state's Consumer Protection Act when the shop's owner advised a customer that for religious reasons she could not provide flower arrangements for his same-sex wedding ceremony. (See prior posting.) The oral arguments (video of full arguments) were heard by the Court sitting at Bellevue College, where the justices the prior day visited with students and spoke to classes.

AP reports at length on the oral arguments, including a report on this exchange at the beginning of appellant's presentation:
"A Muslim graphics designer should not be compelled to create designs promoting a Jewish Friends of Israel group, a gay public relations manager shouldn't be forced to promote the Westboro Baptist Church, and a Christian floral designer shouldn't be forced to create custom wedding designs for a wedding that is not between one man and one woman," Stutzman's attorney, Kristin Waggoner, told the court.
Waggoner immediately ran into questions. Justice Susan Owens brought up the state's first and only black justice, the recently deceased Charles Z. Smith, who had to stay in separate hotels from other attorneys when he traveled the country while working for the Justice Department in the 1960s.
"How is this different?" Owens asked. "Because I'm sure some of the owners of those hotels would profess they had strongly held religious beliefs that prohibited racial integration."
For one thing, Waggoner responded, renting out a hotel room isn't a form of artistic expression or speech deserving of protection. Stutzman's floral arrangements do constitute expression protected by the Constitution, the lawyer said, and the government can't compel that expression.
Alliance Defense Fund has a case page with links to the pleadings, briefs and opinions in the case.