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Cake v. Flowers: Supreme Court ruling may not apply in Washington case

UPDATED: Tue., June 5, 2018, 4:43 p.m.

Supporters of baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, hug inside Phillips' shop Monday, June 4, 2018, in Lakewood, Colo., after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that he could refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because his religious beliefs did not violate Colorado's anti-discrimination law. (David Zalubowski / AP)
Supporters of baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, hug inside Phillips' shop Monday, June 4, 2018, in Lakewood, Colo., after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that he could refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because his religious beliefs did not violate Colorado's anti-discrimination law. (David Zalubowski / AP)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that a Colorado baker didn’t have to provide a cake for a gay wedding may not mean that a Washington florist could take a similar stance.

Baker Jack Phillips and florist Barronell Stutzman both contended their religious objections to same-sex marriage gave them a First Amendment right to refuse service. But the cases are different enough that while Phillips’ constitutional rights were violated, florist Stutzman’s might not be.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Monday morning on Twitter that Monday’s ruling “may lead to additional procedural steps” in the florist case, but predicted that it won’t affect the outcome. The state will continue to enforce laws against discrimination, which include a protection for sexual orientation, he said.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a group representing Stutzman in her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Tuesday in a press release the two cases are similar because both involve artists who serve all customers but won’t create custom art that celebrates events that conflict with her deeply held religious beliefs.

Monday’s 7-2 ruling said Phillips had a right to refuse a gay couple’s request for a wedding cake because of his devout Christian beliefs, even though the Colorado Civil Rights Commission said he didn’t and an appeals court in that state upheld the decision. Key to that decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said, was the commission hearing in which one member disparaged his religious beliefs and likened them to beliefs that condone slavery or the Holocaust.

Phillips had a right to a neutral hearing that was free from any hostility to his religious viewpoint, the court said.

Stutzman has also claimed her religious objections to same-sex marriage allowed her to refuse to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding in the Tri-Cities. She was sued by the customers, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, and by Ferguson under the Washington consumer protection law. Both a trial court and the state Supreme Court ruled she couldn’t refuse service to a same-sex couple that she provides to opposite-sex couples.

An appeal of that case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices have not yet decided whether to accept it. There are some differences:

Same-sex marriage was illegal in Colorado when Phillips refused to make the cake. It was legal in Washington in 2013 when Stutzman refused to provide floral arrangements for Ingersoll and Freed.

The Colorado case went through an administrative proceeding first. The Washington case went through the court system as a consumer protection case.

The Colorado commission had ruled in previous cases that three bakeries had a right not to make cakes that were disparaging to homosexuals that an anti-gay customer tried to order. The Supreme Court said Phillips was not afforded the same consideration.

Ferguson said he was confident Washington courts didn’t show the hostility the U.S. Supreme Court found present in the Colorado case.

The Alliance contended Tuesday, however, that Ferguson “repeatedly and overtly demeaned her faith,” making it similar to the Colorado case.

“He has compared her religious beliefs about marriage – which the Supreme Court said are ‘decent and honorable’ – to racial discrimination,” the group said in a press release. “The attorney general’s efforts to punish her because he dislikes her beliefs about marriage are as impermissible as Colorado’s attempt to punish (Phillips).”

It’s not clear what the high court will order in the case involving Stutzman, although it could send it back to the Washington Supreme court to be re-evaluated in light of the recent ruling.

If that happens, Ferguson said he was confident Monday’s ruling wouldn’t alter the conclusion of the state Supreme Court.