The US Supreme Court has passed on hearing a case that would have settled whether businesses are entitled to refuse services for same-sex marriages on religious or free speech grounds.
Declining to consider the appeal brought by a Washington state florist, the Supreme Court on Friday deferred to earlier state court rulings on the case.
In 2013, Barronelle Stutzman refused to provide flowers for the same-sex wedding of two male customers because it violated her “relationship with Jesus Christ.” The couple took her to court over the matter, and state judges ruled that she had broken a law prohibiting businesses from discriminating against people due to their sexual orientation.
The Washington Supreme Court backed that decision, by claiming that providing flowers for a marriage ceremony “does not inherently express a message about that wedding.”
The decision by America’s highest court not to take Stutzman’s appeal is the second time in recent years where the Supreme Court avoided the thorny issue of the balance between protecting individuals from discrimination and upholding rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Three years ago, the Supreme Court declined to address similar concerns when it ruled that a Colorado bakery could not be forced to create a cake for a same-sex wedding. The 7-2 decision in favor the baker only addressed the facts of his specific case, rather than the larger issue concerning religious or free speech objections to serving certain people or groups.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case, Stutzman’s lawyers argued that “these First Amendment violations must stop” and that the justices should rule that “religious people should be free to live out their beliefs.” The American Civil Liberties Union, representing Washington state, argued that providing services to same-sex marriages does infringe upon individual rights, as business owners do not have to participate in or endorse the ceremonies.
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