With another chance in court, Arlene’s Flowers feeling hopeful
Three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of a Colorado baker to refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding, the court sent the similar Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington case back to Olympia for another look.
And according to Kristen Waggoner with the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that is working pro bono for the florist, Arlene’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman of Richland is feeling “hopeful” about getting a second chance at the Washington State Supreme Court.
Waggoner explained to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that the decision essentially nullifies the Washington State Supreme Court’s previous ruling that Stutzman violated the Constitution in 2013 when she refused to do a floral arrangement for a gay wedding.
“It remanded it to the Washington courts and said, ‘You need to take another look at Barronelle’s case in light of what the court said in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision,” Waggoner said.
Waggoner said that the precedents set by Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission provided an outline that supported Stutzman’s side.
In the Masterpiece case, the Supreme Court “laid out some broader, general guidelines for courts as they’re considering these claims, both on the free speech side and on the free exercise side,” she said. One of these key principles was that “no one should be bullied or banished for their religious beliefs on marriage.”
In Arlene’s Flowers, “the court either embraced these arguments or it left them intact,” Waggoner said. “That will all benefit Barronelle.”
As long as the Washington State Supreme Court follows the U.S. Constitution, Waggoner said that she and Stutzman are confident that they will come out successful.
“I don’t need fairness, and Barronelle doesn’t need fairness,” Waggoner said. “What she needs is the courts to follow the United States Constitution and the Supreme Court’s decision.”
If Stutzman does not win the second time around, she plans to take the case back to the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, Waggoner said that even winning the case would not undo the suffering that Stutzman has undergone over the past five years. The business owner has received so many threats — including death threats — that she had to put security in the flower shop.
“It has turned her life upside-down, and it’s wrong,” Waggoner said. “It’s not only unconstitutional, it’s wrong. It’s wrong what the Washington government has done.”
According to Waggoner, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s suit amounts to nothing more than a malicious personal witch hunt that is completely out of line with what his role should be. She believes that his actions will ultimately weaken his case.
“The hostility with which Bob Ferguson has treated Barronelle in unprecedented ways for his office do not bode well,” Waggoner said.
In the meantime, Waggoner said, because of Ferguson’s relentless pursuit, the 73-year-old’s house, business, savings, and retirement are all at risk.
“The attorney general is suing her personally going after everything she owns … what he’s done is punitive and vindictive,” Waggoner said.