WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court ordered Washington state courts Monday to take a new look at the case of a florist who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding, in light of the justices' recent ruling in a similar case involving a Colorado baker.
The order means the Supreme Court is again, for now, passing on the key issue in both cases: whether business owners citing their faith can refuse to comply with anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people.
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The 73-year-old florist, Barronelle Stutzman, appealed after Washington's Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year that she broke the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing on religious grounds to provide flowers for the wedding of a customer at her Richland shop, Arlene's Flowers, in 2013.
Early this month, the Supreme Court issued a limited ruling in favor of Jack Phillips, the proprietor of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado.
In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the 7-2 majority found that comments by a member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission displayed an anti-religious bias — depriving Phillips of the respect and consideration his beliefs deserved. The commissioner had said that "religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history," including slavery and the Holocaust.
Kennedy wrote that such disputes "must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market."
Washington courts will now review the florist's case for similar issues, but it's unclear whether their analysis will change. The state's high court held in its ruling floral arrangements do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.