Opinion

Free speech does not include discrimination

The Seattle Times

The Washington Supreme Court recently restated that it is illegal for businesses to refuse services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The Washington Supreme Court recently restated that it is illegal for businesses to refuse services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. File

With its unanimous decision serving as an exclamation point, the Washington Supreme Court reaffirmed that discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in Washington.

The court ruled that a Richland florist violated the law by refusing to create flower arrangements for a 2013 wedding between Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, based on her religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Line by line, the opinion written by Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud reminds florist Barronelle Stutzman of the volume of case law prohibiting such discrimination, not just in Washington but across the nation.

A majority of Washington lawmakers, then voters stood up for the rights of its citizens to love whomever they want — and the high court has too.

Stutzman’s attorneys argued that the creative expression of floral arrangement deserves protection as free speech. The court answered: The First Amendment protects speech, not conduct. The ruling goes on to use Stutzman’s own words against her, pointing out that she said during a deposition that providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam.

One sentence in McCloud’s opinion should be immortalized: “We agree with Ingersoll and Freed that ‘this case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases were about access to sandwiches.’ 

Despite a statement from the attorneys for Stutzman and Arlene’s Flowers that they will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s time to let Ingersoll and Freed fade from the spotlight and live their married lives in peace.

Stutzman should stop wasting Washington tax dollars — which will have to be used to defend state law — and accept the decision as it stands. If Stutzman doesn’t like selling flowers to everyone in her community, maybe she should find another line of work.

  Comments