Attorney Generals from 14 states defend First Amendment Rights of Arlene’s Flowers

First Amendment Case (Arlene's Flowers)

Florist Baronelle Stutzman, a Christian, was sued in 2013 when she refused to arrange flowers for a gay wedding

U.S. Supreme Court receives amicus brief for 72-year-old grandmother

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Monday led a 14-state coalition in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court defending the First Amendment rights of Washington floral design artist Barronelle Stutzman. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Stutzman must provide a custom floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding, even though it violated Stutzman’s deeply-held religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

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The Washington State Supreme Court maintained that flower arrangements are not speech and that it did not matter Stutzman referred a longtime customer to other florists. Stuzman served the couple (Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll) who brought the original lawsuit for years, and had no objection to the purchase of pre-made arrangements for a wedding, but she objected to creating a custom arrangement for a ceremony that contravened her religious beliefs. The 72-year-old grandmother, who is defending against legal action from the state of Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union, now faces fines and legal fees estimated at $2 million, which could put her out of business.

“I knew he was in a relationship with a man and he knew I was a Christian. But that never clouded the friendship for either of us or threatened our shared creativity — until he asked me to design something special to celebrate his upcoming wedding. If all he’d asked for were prearranged flowers, I’d gladly have provided them. If the celebration were for his partner’s birthday, I’d have been delighted to pour my best into the challenge. But as a Christian, weddings have a particular significance.”–Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers

Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll. (NL)

“Compelling individuals to accommodate or affirm actions contrary to their sincerely-held beliefs is un-American and unconstitutional,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The right to free speech and the free exercise of religion applies to one’s business, just as it does at home or a place of worship. The government may not force individuals to affirmatively work against their deeply-held religious beliefs. I have full faith that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold Barronelle Stutzman’s First Amendment rights.”

Last year, Attorney General Paxton joined a 13-state coalition in filing an amicus brief with the Washington State Supreme Court in support of Arlene’s Flowers. Texas is joined in the Supreme Court amicus brief by the attorneys general from Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, along with Governor Matthew Bevin of Kentucky and Maine Governor Paul LePage.

“Surely without intending to do so, Rob was asking me to choose between my affection for him and my commitment to Christ. As deeply fond as I am of Rob, my relationship with Jesus is everything to me. Without Christ, I can do nothing.”–Barronelle Stutzman

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