The United States Supreme Court has sent the Arlene’s Flowers case back to the Washington State Supreme Court to review the case in light of the recent ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
As is common when cases involving similar issues as a recent ruling are pending before the court, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a “grant, vacate, remand” order. This means the court does not conduct any additional review of the case to determine whether the ruling applies, but formally vacates the lower court ruling and sends the case back to the lower court for a second look. The lower court then re-evaluates the case in light of the new ruling, and determines whether that new ruling impacts the case.
“We expected this procedural step,” Ferguson said. “The Washington State Supreme Court now has the job of determining whether the U.S. Supreme Court ruling affects this case. I am confident they will come to the same conclusion they did in their previous, unanimous ruling upholding the civil rights of same-sex couples in our state.”
Ferguson brought the case against Arlene’s and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, after she refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding and would not agree to stop discriminating.
Under Washington law, a business need not provide a particular service, but if it chooses to do so for couples of the opposite sex, it must provide that service equally to same-sex couples.
In its Feb. 16, 2017 decision, the state Supreme Court unanimously concluded: “The State of Washington bars discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We therefore hold that the conduct for which Stutzman was cited and fined in this case — refusing her commercially marketed wedding floral services to [Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed] because theirs would be a same-sex wedding — constitutes sexual orientation discrimination under the [Washington Law Against Discrimination].”