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SCOTUS: Lower court must rehear flower shop case in light of recent gay wedding cake ruling

The Supreme Court decided that a lower court needed to reconsider a case brought by Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman, who refused to create arrangements for a gay wedding. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

The Supreme Court decided that a lower court needed to reconsider a case brought by a florist who refused to create arrangements for a gay wedding.

What are the details of this case?

When Barronelle Stutzman was approached by a regular customer about having her flower shop, Arlene's Flowers, create arrangements for his wedding to another man, she refused. Stutzman argued that arranging the flowers, or even having someone else on her staff arrange the flowers, would amount to an endorsement of a marriage that she felt would violate her religious convictions.

The Washington state attorney general and the American Civil Liberties Union sued Stutzman for discrimination in the Benton County Superior Court. That court ruled against Stutzman, as did the Washington Supreme Court. The case then made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What was the ruling?

The high court decided to send this case back down the chain for a lower court to reconsider. The justices argued that their ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission changed the equation, and that the lower court should reconsider Stutzman's case in light of that ruling.

How is this related to the Masterpiece ruling?

In their 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court decided that Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, could refuse to create a custom cake for a gay wedding. Phillips refused to bake the cake based on his religious beliefs.

Since the Masterpiece ruling happened after the Washington Supreme Court had already heard Stutzman's case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the best course of action would be to send the case back to the lower court and give it a chance to rule in light of the new precedent.

In the Masterpiece case, the Supreme Court justices decided that members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had been unfairly hostile to Phillips’ religious justifications for his actions. While the Supreme Court did not weigh in yet on whether or not there was unfair hostility in this case, in the court proceedings involving Stutzman and her flower shop, the state of Washington had argued that there was no religious animosity.

What happens now?

The case will go back to the Washington Supreme Court, which had previously ruled against Stutzman. Since the ruling from the lower court was unanimous, it seems unlikely that this second ruling would go in Stutzman's favor. After that, she could appeal to have the case sent back to the Supreme Court.

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