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Washington florist who refused service to same-sex couple asks Supreme Court again to take her case

— Richland, WA (AP)

A Richland florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex marriage on religious grounds is once again asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take her case.

Barronelle Stutzman and her attorneys announced Wednesday they will continue to pursue a Supreme Court hearing in the 6-year-old case.

The 74-year-old Stutzman owns Arlene's Flowers in Richland. In 2013, Stutzman refused to provide flowers for the same-sex wedding of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, saying she believes

"marriage is a sacred union of a man and a woman."

Attorney Jack Ewart represented the same-sex couple in their lawsuit against the florist. 

"It was exceptionally hurtful to our clients. And after thinking about it for some time, they got in touch with the ACLU of Washington, who got in touch with us. We filed a lawsuit under the Washington law against discrimination and the consumer protection act," said Ewart.

The Supreme Court last year remanded the case back to the Washington Supreme Court, which in June reiterated that Stutzman broke state law by refusing to design the flowers for the same-sex wedding. A Southern Baptist, Stutzman has argued that designing flowers is an artistic expression protected under the First Amendment.

Her lawyers contend that no creative professional should be required to create art that violates their core convictions. State courts did not act with animosity toward religion when they ruled that a florist broke the state's anti-discrimination laws by refusing on religious grounds to provide flowers for the wedding of a gay couple, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday.

Neither the Washington Supreme Court nor the Benton County Superior Court acted with religious animosity when they ruled the florist violated Washington state's discrimination law, the state supreme court's decision said.

Stutzman's refusal to provide flowers to the same-sex couple was discrimination against sexual orientation, the decision reiterated.

"We are confident that the courts resolved this dispute with tolerance, and we therefore find no reason to change our original judgment," Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who sued Stutzman and her business in 2013, praised the decision.

"Washington state law protects same-sex couples from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, the same way it protects Washingtonians from discrimination based on their religion, veteran or military status, disability, race and other protected classes," Ferguson said.

The Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom nonprofit group that advocates for religious rights represents Stutzman and said it will again petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up her case.

"Without even holding an oral argument, the state court came back with the same result, repeating verbatim much of what it said in its original decision," the group said in a statement.
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