A settlement was reached Thursday in the nearly decade-old case of a Christian flower shop owner in Washington state who refused to provide a same-sex couple flowers for their wedding despite the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
The U.S. Supreme Court left intact the state court rulings against Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, in July. Shortly afterward, Stutzman petitioned for a rehearing.
Stutzman withdrew her petition Thursday and agreed to pay a settlement of $5,000 to the couple, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.
“We took on this case because we were worried about the harm being turned away would cause LGBTQ people. We are glad the Washington Supreme Court rulings will stay in place to ensure that same-sex couples are protected from discrimination and should be served by businesses like anyone else,” the couple said in a statement. “It was painful to be turned away and we are thankful that this long journey for us is finally over.”
Using an argument similar to that of Colorado baker Jack Phillips in the hot-button 2018 Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Stutzman argued that her floral arrangements are works of art and that having to create them for same-sex weddings would trample on her freedom of expression.
A lower court ruled in 2015 that Stutzman broke a Washington law that bars businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the couple in 2017 and then again in 2019, finding that selling flowers for a wedding “does not inherently express a message about that wedding.”
Ingersoll and Freed will donate the $5,000 to a local chapter of PFLAG, an LGBTQ advocacy group, and they also plan to match the donation, Thursday’s statement said.