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NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Applauds Decision of Washington Supreme Court in Favor of Same-Sex Couple Seeking Wedding Floral Arrangements
Today, the Washington Supreme Court issued a ruling in State v. Arlene’s Flowers, Inc., declaring that a florist’s refusal to provide arrangements for a same-sex couple’s wedding violates the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). WLAD ensures that goods and services are available to all people in the state regardless of their personal characteristics or identity. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), along with Perkins Coie LLP, filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting the respondents, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. LDF’s brief explains why religious motivations cannot justify discrimination in public accommodations.
“We are pleased with the decision of the Washington Supreme Court affirming a longstanding and hard-fought principle of civil rights law—that no one should be denied equal access to places of public accommodation based solely on who they are,” said Coty Montag, LDF’s Deputy Director of Litigation. “The religious arguments supporting sexual orientation discrimination should be relegated to the dustbin of history.”
This case arose after Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. Freed attempted to obtain floral arrangements for their wedding from Baronelle Stutzman and her business, Arlene’s Flowers. Ms. Stutzman refused to serve the couple, claiming that her sincerely-held religious beliefs do not allow her or her business to support same-sex marriages. The religious justifications for sexual orientation discrimination, such as those offered by Arlene’s Flowers, closely resemble the religious arguments that supported slavery, anti-miscegenation laws, and racial segregation until the middle of the twentieth century. After decades-long advocacy and litigation by the civil rights community, modern courts eventually discredited religious defenses of racial discrimination. LDF’s brief contended that the Washington courts should reject the religious arguments for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for the same reasons.
The court ruled that Ms. Stuzman’s refusal to provide floral arrangements to Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. Freed violated WLAD’s prohibition against discrimination in public accommodations. It further held that the WLAD does not violate Ms. Stutzman’s constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.
Read LDF’s brief here.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.