Enforcing Nondiscrimination Laws Is Not a Sign of Anti-Religious Bias

On Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up another challenge to state nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people. Instead, it asked the Washington Supreme Court to take a fresh look at a case about a flower shop that refused to sell flowers to a same-sex couple for their wedding in violation of state law. The remand provides a chance for the state court to clarify the meaning of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop as it applies to this case.

In 2017, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the same-sex couple in Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, and there’s no reason to think its analysis and ruling will change when it reconsiders the case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.

The Masterpiece case involved Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, a same-sex couple who went to a Denver bakery in search of a cake for their wedding reception. When the bakery refused to sell them a cake because they are a same-sex couple, they sued under Colorado’s longstanding nondiscrimination law. The bakery claimed that the Constitution’s protection of free speech and freedom of religion gave it the right to discriminate regardless of the state’s civil rights law. 

The Supreme Court’s decision did not decide that question. Instead, it held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission displayed anti-religious bias when ruling on Dave and Charlie’s discrimination claim. This bias, the court said, invalidated the commission’s ruling against the bakery. 

The constitutional problem that the Supreme Court found in the bakery case — anti-religious bias by a government adjudicator — is simply not present in the flower shop case. A ruling for the couple in Arlene’s Flowers on remand would underscore that the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop does not provide a license to discriminate against LGBT people or against anyone else protected by nondiscrimination laws. 

The facts in the Arlene’s Flowers case are quite similar to the bakery case — with one crucial difference. Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed went to Arlene’s Flowers, a local florist in their small Eastern Washington town, seeking flowers for their wedding. The flower shop refused to sell them flowers because of the owner’s religious objection to same-sex couples getting married. Rob and Curt had been planning a wedding with about 100 of their close friends and family, but after being turned away by the flower shop, they were fearful of being turned away by other vendors.

Consequently, they decided to scale their wedding back to a private ceremony at home with 10 people, which they could arrange with minimal help from outside vendors. Just as in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the state courts in Arlene’s Flowers ruled unanimously that the flower shop unlawfully discriminated against Rob and Curt when it refused to sell them flowers. They also rejected the businesses’ claim that the Constitution gave them a right to violate the state’s discrimination law. 

There is, however, one critical difference between Arlene’s Flowers and Masterpiece Cakeshop: There is no evidence in Arlene’s Flowers of anti-religious bias on the part of the Washington courts that ruled against the flower shop. In fact, the Washington courts have repeatedly recognized the importance of religious freedom.

Alliance Defending Freedom, the anti-LGBT group that represents both the bakery and the flower shop, is arguing that Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson displayed anti-religious bias that violates the rule set forth in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision by seeking to enforce the state’s anti-discrimination law against the flower shop. 

It’s the job of the Washington attorney general to enforce the state’s laws, including its laws barring discrimination. Bringing a charge of discrimination against a business that is open to the public but turns away customers because they are LGBT is not an anti-religious act, it’s the neutral enforcement of the law.  Attorney General Ferguson has repeatedly sought to enforce the Constitution’s protections for freedom of religion, for example, by challenging the Muslim ban to stop the federal government’s explicit discrimination against people based on their religion.

The remand of Arlene’s Flowers to the Washington Supreme Court provides an opportunity for that court to make clear that enforcing civil rights laws is not a sign of anti-religious bias and to reject the argument that the state violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop

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Dr. Timothy Leary

The Trump administration is the dying breath of W.A.S.P. (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) domination of America. In the near future the L.G.B.T. (Lesbian, Gay, Black & Transgender) will dominate.

Joe

Im sure you have already called Sarah Sanders to protect her rights against discrimination. I hope you can get those type of restaurant owners who wont serve people they disagree with. Thanks

Henry

Specifically how was Sarah Sanders discriminated against? Hypocrites and liars and not a protected class. She wasn't asked to leave based on any protected status, but was asked to leave because he presence was a disruption.

Anonymous

Rob and Curt had one negative experience and rearranged their entire wedding? Sorry, but that seems too wimpy to be believed. They could have used their cellphone to call other florists if they were too traumatized to go in person or gotten someone else to call.

Jillian Weiss

You probably aren’t part of a despised minority, then. When you’re trying to celebrate finding your one true love amongst the razor wire of bigots all around, you probably aren’t that up for inviting people to spit on your most tender and intimate feelings about the love of your life. I’d cancel the wedding too, rather than to have even think about the likes of you, let alone call you and ask you for anything.

Mishka

And I decide on my property who can come onto it or not....I would invite friends/family of any background....but it is my decision...A person's right to who comes into their home/business is their own...this is a fact and unless you want homeless people camping out on your front lawn.....get over yourselves. I am sick of Nimby's.

Q Johansen

Talk about comparing things that are UNRELATED... A business is NOT the same as private property. Holding one self out to sell to the public means that the public may enter your property to make a purchase. Sadly, too many religious people in these cases almost always Christian need to wake up and Follow Jesus. Jesus is NOT in any way harmed if you bake a cake or arrange flowers for a same sex couple's wedding. We need more Followers of Jesus, and perhaps, fewer hard-hearted "Christians".

DrZ

Mishka,
An interesting closed minded self serving comment. I can tell that you don’t follow the teachings of Yeshua(that was His real name). One day I would hope that you could open your heart to His message that ALL of us are Children of God.
As for your dislike of the Homeless, take a look at the root cause of the problem. A generation ago Republicans closed Pychiatric Hospitals which poured those people out into our communities. Republicans favor not paying a living wage for people, Republicans don’t want to give our Veterans proper medical care after serving our country. DO YOU NOTICE A PATTERN HERE?
As my Mentor taught me to Engage my mind Before opening up my mouth.

DrZ

Mishka,
Sorry I forgot to add about your statement concerning Nimby’s. I didn’t know what that meant so I looked it up.
It seems that YOU are a NIMBY by definition!! Take my advice, you shouldn’t you words that you don’t know what there meanings are. Lol. Better look them up first!!!

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