U.S. Supreme Court Again Declines to Hear Same-Sex Wedding Vendor Appeal

Once again, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case concerning whether wedding vendors can refuse to provide services to same-sex wedding ceremonies based on their First Amendment religious beliefs.

The case – Arlene’s Flowers Inc. v. Washington – came on appeal from the Washington Supreme Court, which had affirmed a lower court ruling that a florist’s refusal to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding violated anti-discrimination law. The case originated in 2013 when Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed attempted to hire Arlene’s Flowers for their wedding after Washington state recognized same-sex marriage in 2012. Ingersoll, who was a longtime customer of the florist, was told by flower shop owner Barronelle Stutzman that she could not supply the flowers for the wedding “because of her relationship with Jesus Christ.”

The state of Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the florist for discrimination on behalf of Ingersoll and Freed and won at the trial level and again in the Washington Supreme Court. Stutzman appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019, and filed a supplementary brief in June 2020 following the high court’s ruling in Fulton v. Philadelphia that Philadelphia had violated a Catholic foster care agency’s First Amendment rights by requiring that the agency accept same-sex couples as foster parents.

In 2018, the Supreme Court skirted the question of religious objections to same-sex marriage in Master Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where the court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who had refused to provide a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission proceedings against the baker had been tainted by anti-religious bias, leaving the questions of religious objections and the First Amendment unanswered.

While three justices voted to hear Arlene’s Flowers, it was one vote shy of the total needed for the high court to grant certiorari. 

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