Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge led a 13-state coalition in filing an amicus brief with the Washington State Supreme Court defending the First Amendment rights of Washington floral design artist Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers. The Washington State Supreme Court previously ruled that Stutzman must provide a custom floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding, even though it violated Stutzman’s deeply-held religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. The case is back in the Washington Supreme Court after the Supreme Court of the United States vacated the ruling and instructed the Washington high court to reconsider its prior decision.
“The right to free speech and the free exercise of religion applies to all aspects of one’s life, not just at home or in a place of worship,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Artistic work is free speech. It is inherently expressive, and that has always received full First Amendment protection. A customized piece of art is not a public accommodation. Compelling individuals to accommodate or affirm actions contrary to their sincerely-held beliefs is as un-American as it is unconstitutional.”
Stutzman, a grandmother who served the couple who brought the lawsuit for years, had no objection to the purchase of pre-made arrangements for a wedding, but objected to creating a custom arrangement for a ceremony that violated her religious beliefs. Stutzman also referred the couple to other florists, but is now forced to defend her right to decline creating a custom art piece for an event that contradicts her religious beliefs. She faces fines and legal fees estimated at $2 million, which could put her out of business.
Texas and Arkansas were joined in the friend-of-the-court brief by Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
View a copy of the brief here.