U.S. Supreme Court Sends LGBT Discrimination Case Back to WA State Supreme Court for Review

News Release: 
Monday, June 25, 2018
The U.S. Supreme Court today vacated and remanded the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision in Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, a case involving a same-sex couple turned away from a flower shop because of their sexual orientation.
The case arose from an incident of discrimination in 2013. While planning their wedding, Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll were refused service by Arlene’s Flowers in Richland because they are gay. The ACLU represents Freed and Ingersoll in their lawsuit against the florist for violating their rights.
The Washington Supreme Court in February 2017 unanimously found that the Richland florist violated the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws when she refused to sell flowers to the couple for their wedding.  The suit was heard jointly with the consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers brought by the State of Washington.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision. The action comes after the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which the court underscored the validity of laws prohibiting discrimination but ruled for the Colorado bakery based on concerns about anti-religious bias by a state civil rights commission.
Masterpiece Cakeshop properly recognized that people should be able to purchase goods and services no matter who they are or who they love.  There is simply no record of anti-religious sentiment from the Washington State courts, and we have every reason to believe the Washington State Supreme Court will reaffirm Curt and Robert’s right to be full and equal members of our society,” said Emily Chiang, ACLU of Washington Legal Director.
Robert Ingersoll said, “No one should have to experience the hurt that we did. Curt and I now live our lives on-guard in a way that we didn’t before we were turned away from Arlene’s Flowers. No one should have to experience that, and we’re hopeful the Washington courts will again recognize that this case is clearly about discrimination, which has no place in the public marketplace or in our Constitution.”
“To be clear, the court made no indication the lower courts ruled incorrectly and made no decision on the case’s merits. We are confident that the Washington State Supreme Court will rule once again in favor of the same-sex couple, and reaffirm its decision that no business has a right to discriminate,” said James Esseks, director of ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project.
In its ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the US Supreme Court said, Nevertheless, while those religious and philosophical objections are protected, it is a general rule that such objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.”
The Court further said, “Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth … The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts.”
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