OLYMPIA, Wash. — On Feb. 16, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of a same-sex couple saying that a florist’s refusal to serve plaintiffs Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.
Arlene’s Flowers had denied service to the couple because they were gay.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Washington represented Freed and Ingersoll in their lawsuit against the florist for violating their rights. The suit, Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, was heard jointly with the consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers brought by the state of Washington.
“We’re thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. The court affirmed that we are on the right side of law and the right side of history,” said Freed and Ingersoll. “We felt it was so important that we stand up against discrimination because we don’t want what happened to us to happen to anyone else. We are so glad that we stood up for our rights.”
The couple had purchased goods from the florist previously on a number of occasions. But when they began their wedding plans in 2012, Ingersoll approached the florist to arrange for flowers for the event. He was met with the refusal to accommodate the request due to owner Barronelle Stutzman’s religious beliefs.
Fearing further discrimination, they stopped planning for a big wedding and ultimately decided to have a small wedding at their home, the ACLU said.
“Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America. But religious beliefs do not give any of us a right to ignore the law or to harm others because of who they are. When people experience acts of discrimination, they feel that they are not full and equal members of our society, and we’re delighted that the Washington Supreme Court has recognized this,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT Project.
The conservative, right-wing Family Research Council expressed their disappointment over the outcome of the suit. Its president, Tony Perkins, said that the court “ignored an opportunity to reaffirm the basic principle that the government may not trample on the constitutional rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion.”
LGBTQ and allied groups, however, saw this decision by the court as a victory for LGBTQ couples who sought services for their nuptials.