Arguing Against Use of Religious Beliefs to Justify Discrimination in Public Accommodations, LDF Files Brief in Support of Same-Sex Couple Denied Wedding Flowers in Washington State

On February 8, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), along with Perkins Coie LLP, filed a “friend of the court” brief in State v. Arlene’s Flowers, Inc., a case that challenges a Washington State florist’s religious-based refusal to provide floral arrangements for the wedding of a same-sex couple. LDF’s brief explains why religious motivations cannot justify discrimination in public accommodations. The case is pending in the Washington State Supreme Court.

“No one should be denied equal access to publicly available spaces, goods or services based solely on who they are,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. “Full and fair access to public accommodations, like a floral shop, is a basic civil right entitled to protection.”

This case arose after two men, Robert Ingersoll and Curt 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 contends that the Washington courts should reject the religious arguments for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for the same reasons.

Additionally, the Washington State Law Against Discrimination ensures that goods and services are available to all people in the state regardless of their personal characteristics or identity. Therefore, the Washington Supreme Court should uphold the lower court’s decision that Arlene’s Flowers’ refusal to serve the same-sex wedding violated state law.

“We cannot turn back the clock and again permit religious beliefs to justify discrimination,” said Coty Montag, LDF’s Deputy Director of Litigation. “The religious arguments supporting sexual orientation discrimination should be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

Read LDF’s brief here.

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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. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.

 

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