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Washington Supreme Court rules florist broke anti-discrimination laws

[JURIST] The Washington Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that a florist that refused to sell flowers to a same-sex couple for their wedding violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) [text]. The WLAD bars "unfair practices of places of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, [and] amusement." According to the opinion, the florist argued that the WLAD did not apply to her conduct, and, that if it did, it violated her state and federal constitutional rights of free speech, association, exercise and religion. The florist further argued that providing flowers to a same-sex couple would serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage, which she stated was against her religious beliefs. The court concluded that the sale of her floral arrangements did not constitute protected free speech. The court stated:

As applied in this case, the WLAD does not compel speech or association. And assuming that it substantially burdens Stutzman's religious free exercise, the WLAD does not violate her right to religious free exercise under either the First Amendment or article I, section 11 because it is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government's compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.
Kristen Waggoner [official profile], one of the attorneys representing the florist, issued a statement [official statement] following the ruling: "It's wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will." The attorneys representing the florist stated [The State report] that they would appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been controversial in the US. In January President Donald Trump vowed [JURIST report] to continue LGBTQ rights protections for federal workers. North Carolina has faced national focus for its "bathroom bill" [JURIST report] that requires individuals to use the public bathroom associated with the sex listed on their birth certificate. In November a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled [JURIST report] that Title VII's protection from employment discrimination based on sex extends to sexual orientation. In June two gay men filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging a Tennessee law that protects counselors who refuse to provide services to individuals based on their religious beliefs.

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