The Supreme Court declared on Friday that it would uphold a lower court verdict in favor of a lesbian couple in Washington State who were refused service by their local flower shop when they requested wedding decorations.
Arlene's Flowers v. Washington is a lawsuit that dates back to 2013, when the proprietor of the flower store, Barronelle Stutzman, stated that she would be unable to deliver flowers to longstanding customer Robert Ingersoll and his forthcoming wedding to his partner Curt Freed. Same-sex weddings had been permitted in Washington for about a year at the time. Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their ideas about marriage, Stutzman said at the time, but I am no longer free to act on my beliefs as I follow the Bible's teaching that marriage is considered the union of one man and one woman.
Stutzman has called for a clear ruling in favor of religious freedom with the aid of conservative activists who anticipated that the current Conservative majority of the Court could offer them. Ingersoll and Freed and the state both sued the flower shop and won a $1,000 judgment against the shop, but ever since, Stutzman has been appealing with the assistance of conservative activists who believed that the current Supreme Court's conservative majority would provide them with a clear verdict in favor of religious freedom.
The case is similar to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which was decided by the Supreme Court in 2015, in which former Justice Anthony Kennedy's narrowly focused majority opinion in favor of the bakery — which denied to make a cake for a same-sex union — focused on the commission's anti-religious bias.
In light of the court's decision in Masterpiece, the court earlier remanded the Arlene's Flowers case to the Washington Supreme Court for a second review, and the Washington Supreme Court once again found in favor of the lesbian couple.
According to the New York Times, the court's refusal to consider Arlene Flower's case leaves open the question of whether these refusals of service on religious grounds are genuinely constitutional. The court provided no explanation for its refusal to consider the case, but Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch all stated that they would have heard it.
Alito recently delivered a bombastic and contemptuous concurring opinion in a religious freedom case involving a Catholic charity in Philadelphia that refused to deal with same-sex foster parents. The incredibly restricted finding, according to Alito, is "a wisp of a decision that leaves religious liberty in a confused and vulnerable position," and it "may as well have been written on the dissolving paper used at magic shops."
Last week, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court finding on transgender students' access to school bathrooms based on their gender identification rather than the gender given at birth.
Alito and Thomas, in particular, believe that the court has been extremely careful in deciding decisions involving sensitive social concerns, with Alito stating in dissent in another decision to remand a case to the appeals circuit, 'what we should not do is to take the easy escape.'
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