At long last, a legal battle involving Christian bigot Barronelle Stutzman is over after the parties reached a settlement that will result in Stutzman paying a large fine to the men she discriminated against.
If you need a refresher, in 2013, Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, refused to provide flowers for the wedding of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed even though marriage equality was legal in the state. She was fined $1,000 and told she couldn’t discriminate against her customers. So she sued.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court punted on taking up the case after the Washington Supreme Court unanimously ruled against her. At the time, they said selling flowers for a same-sex wedding was no less an endorsement of homosexuality than flowers for an Islamic or atheist wedding. (Stutzman even admitted that herself!) If a vendor has no problem selling goods to atheists or divorced people, the judges essentially argued, then there should be no reason that vendor should refuse to do business with gay customers.
Despite not taking up the case themselves, though, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out that ruling and sent the case back to Washington with the instructions to reconsider it in light of the SCOTUS ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop. In that case, a Christian baker didn’t want to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding, and the justices said a Colorado commission overstepped its bounds in punishing him… though they didn’t rule on the general substance of his bigotry. So their instructions to the Washington judges was to consider if state officials exhibited any anti-religious bias in their decision.
The Washington Supreme Court reconsidered the case… and, in 2019, they basically said they were right the first time — and they again said it unanimously.
Her lawyers once again appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court under the assumption that the right for Christians to discriminate against gay people is the true fight of their religious freedom.
And then, in July, the U.S. Supreme Court said once again that it would not hear this case.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito disagreed with that decision. Since it takes four votes to hear a case, it meant that the other six justices felt no need to take this one up. Whatever their reasoning, it was the right move since there was no legal ambiguity. Stutzman was just being a flat-out Christian bigot. She refused to sell gay customers the very same thing she would’ve sold straight ones. It’s not like the customers were asking for special gay flowers spelling out the words “Homosexuality is the best!” Had they not been gay, they would’ve received the products. It was as simple as that.
So what happens when you’ve run out of legal options?
Stutzman and her attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the case in light of another decision… but yesterday, they told the Court to just toss out their request because both sides had reached a settlement that involves Stutzman paying the two gay men $5,000.
And she’ll retire. That’s not part of the settlement. That’s just an added bonus.
And while she didn’t mention it in her own statement, she will be forever remembered as the bigot who spent nine years fighting a legal battle because she decided defending Christian prejudice was more important than celebrating a customer’s wedding. She’s a poster child for faith-based hate — right alongside fellow legal loser Kim Davis.
By the way, the ACLU, which represented the two men, said their clients would donate the $5,000 to a local PFLAG chapter while also personally matching the amount. It’s just a lovely way to make use of the cash.
The two men said this in a statement:
“We took on this case because we were worried about the harm being turned away would cause LGBTQ people. We are glad the Washington Supreme Court rulings will stay in place to ensure that same-sex couples are protected from discrimination and should be served by businesses like anyone else. We are also pleased to support our local PFLAG’s work to support LGBTQ people in the Tri-Cities area. It was painful to be turned away and we are thankful that this long journey for us is finally over.”
(Screenshot via YouTube. Large portions of this article were published earlier)