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Thomas More Society Files Amicus Brief in Support of Baronnelle Stutzman

Back in November, when Baronnelle’s case was argued before the Washington State Supreme Court, list of Barronelle’s supporters include officials from 13 different states. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, 11 state attorneys general and 2 governors – urged the Court to rule in Barronelle’s favor in an amicus brief:

“Our history encourages a public square with many voices, all trying to persuade others of their views. But Respondents want all the voices either to agree on one view or to be silent. Because that runs contrary to America’s history of free speech and religious exemptions—which are embedded in Washington’s Constitution—Amici respectfully urge this Court to rule in Appellants’ [Barronelle’s] favor.”

Now, that list of supporters has more than doubled, with 29 members of Congress and 14 states asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman in amicus briefs filed with the Court on August 21, 2017. The Thomas More Society, a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty, was among those who filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the request for review by Baronnelle Stutzman.

Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman was punished today by the Supreme Court of the State of Washington for operating her business peacefully and lovingly according to her firmly and sincerely held religious beliefs.

Barronelle is a 72 yea-old grandmother who operates her business, Arlene’s Flowers. She gladly serves every person in who walks in her doors irregardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or beliefs but cannot celebrate all events. According to Alliance Defending Freedom:

In particular, because of her beliefs about marriage, she cannot design custom floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding (although she would be happy to sell premade arrangements or raw flowers to couples planning such an event).

So while she has been glad to serve Rob Ingersoll, a gay man and one of her all-time favorite customers, for nearly a decade (and would be happy to continue doing so today), she could not use her artistic talents for one request—to create custom arrangements designed to celebrate his nuptials.

But the State of Washington (which first filed a lawsuit against Barronelle) and now the State’s highest court have declared illegal her practice of running her business consistently with her faith. Regardless of the fact that she has created dozens of floral arrangements for Rob, she must also produce artwork under circumstances that would violate her convictions.

If the state of Washington has their way, this 72 year-old grandmother will be forced to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees racked up by the ACLU in prosecuting the case against her. For simply disagreeing with the state of Washington about marriage, the ACLU and the state of Washington have put at risk everything she owns. This includes not only her business, but also her family’s savings, retirement funds, and home.

Joan Mannix, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, stated that the United States Supreme Court and the United States Courts of Appeals have consistently recognized that the First Amendment affords expansive protection to all forms of expression, including nonverbal art forms, including painting, music and dance.

“There is extensive case law to support this and the idea that an artist’s self-expression is protected regardless of whether the resulting works clearly express a particularized message,” stated Mannix. “Baronnelle Stutzman’s custom floral arrangements are a nonverbal medium of artistic expression. Her arrangements, especially those for wedding ceremonies, are designed to deliver an expressive message, consistent with the personalities of the couple, approving of and celebrating their marriage, and are therefore entitled to First Amendment protection.”

Mannix added that one reason it is so important for the United States Supreme Court to accept the case for review is because the Washington Supreme Court adopted a narrow construction of the First Amendment that disregards numerous cases holding that nonverbal art forms constitute pure “speech” within the meaning of the First Amendment, despite the fact that those art forms do not employ actual words.

Stutzman, explained why she gave her longstanding client referrals to three other florists when asked to create custom floral arrangements for his wedding to another man: “If all he’d asked for were prearranged flowers, I’d gladly have provided them.” “If the celebration were for his partner’s birthday, I’d have been delighted to pour my best into the challenge. But as a Christian, weddings have a particular significance…(he) was asking me to choose between my affection for him and my commitment to Christ…my relationship with Jesus is everything to me.”

[Editor’s Note]: Read the amicus brief filed August 21, 2017, with the United States Supreme Court in Arlene’s Flowers, Inc. v. State of Washington, U. S. Supreme Court, Docket No. 17-108, here: [https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/arlenes-flowers-amicus/].

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