The U.S. Supreme Court said the case should be reconsidered in light of its decision earlier this month in favor of Colorado baker Jack C. Phillips, who declined to create a wedding cake for a gay couple.
The cases are similar, but the justices decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on a fact-specific finding: that members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had been unfairly hostile to Phillips’s religious justifications for his actions.
The state of Washington had argued there was no religious animosity in the court proceedings involving Stutzman and her flower shop, Arlene’s Flowers.
The justices had been holding the case for months and had three choices: grant Stutzman’s petition and hear the case in the term that begins in October; decline the case and leave in place the Washington Supreme Court opinion, which is similar to those in other states with laws that protect on the basis on sexual orientation; or send it back to the state court with instructions to rehear the case in light of the Masterpiece decision.
There is little dispute about the facts of the case. Stutzman had counted Robert Ingersoll as a customer for nearly a decade when he came in one day in 2013 and said he wanted to talk about flowers for his wedding to his longtime companion, Curt Freed. Stutzman said she held his hand and said she had to decline his request because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“I truly want the best for my friend,” Stutzman wrote in a letter to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in 2015. “I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case.”
Ingersoll and Freed filed suit against Stutzman, as did the state.
In its decision, the Washington Supreme Court said it agreed with the couple’s assertion in a brief that “this case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.”
It added that public accommodation laws do more than guarantee access to goods and services.
“Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace,” the justices wrote. “Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined.”