Americans United Submits Amicus Brief To Washington Supreme Court In Florist Case

Americans United sent an amicus to the Washington State Supreme Court declaring that the owner of Arlene's Flowers does not have the religious freedom right to deny services to LGBT couples.

From the brief: 

Arlene’s Flowers maintains that the First Amendment permits it to disregard these laws and deny service to same-sex couples. The commercial florist insists that selling its flower arrangements to these couples “would compel [its owner] to express a message with her creativity that violates God’s commands.” CP 16–17. But if that argument were sufficient to auth– orize Arlene’s to violate antidiscrimination laws, an almost unlimited range 3 of for-profit businesses that market goods or services to the public would have that same right to discriminate. Nearly “[a]nyone who makes goods might be thought to engage in an artistic endeavor.” Mark Strasser, Speech, Association, Conscience, and the First Amendment’s Orientation, 91 Denv. U. L. Rev. 495, 525 (2014). As a result, the argument made by Arlene’s “might be used to refuse to provide any services at all to a vast array of individuals for fear of promoting objectionable lifestyles or practices.” Id. at 530.

This argument, moreover, could apply equally to refusals to provide service on the basis of race, national origin, or religion. Restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, make-up artists, clothiers, and other businesses whose proprietors object to same-sex couples (or to, say, interfaith or interracial couples or couples in which one of the partners was previously married and divorced) would be entitled to violate antidiscrimination laws with impunity. See id. at 529–30. In some communities, members of protected classes “might be forced to pick their merchants carefully, like black families driving across the South half a century ago.” 

Read more»

“Business owners do not receive the right to discriminate merely by claiming that they are artists engaging in expression,” said Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory M. Lipper.  “No matter how skilled the florist, there is no First Amendment right to discriminate when selling flowers.”