U.S. Supreme Court Sends ‘Arlene’s Flowers’ Case Back to Lower Court

By Adam Polaski • June 25, 2018 • 9:46 am

Today, June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court took action on a petition for cert. in Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, granting the petition, vacating the lower court decision, and sending it back to the lower court for further consideration in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop. The Justices, therefore, will not hear the case in the fall and the lower courts must reconsider it. Importantly, the Supreme Court did not say the Washington courts did anything wrong – they simply asked the Court to revisit Arlene’s Flowers because Masterpiece Cakeshop dealt with a similar issue. 

In 2017 the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Arlene’s Flowers, a flower shop in Washington, violated the state’s nondiscrimination law when it refused to provide flowers to a same-sex couple. Noted anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Following the decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the civil rights commission erred in its handling of a case of anti-LGBTQ discrimination by being too hostile to people of faith, ADF filed a supplemental petition to the Justices arguing that their client in Arlene’s Flowers also faced similar hostility.

There is no evidence of hostility towards religious beliefs in Arlene’s Flowers, with the Washington courts stating repeatedly that religious views and beliefs are protected. We are confident that the Washington courts will again rule that no business has the right to discriminate.

Arlene’s Flowers was filed on behalf of a Washington florist seeking a religious exemption from the state’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law. The Court issued a very narrow and case-specific ruling on behalf of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips last week, leaving intact existing protections for LGBTQ people and declining to create the religious exemption sought by both plaintiffs. ADF represents the plaintiffs in Masterpiece and Arlene’s Flowers.

The Washington Supreme Court ruling from 2017 reads, “As every other court to address the question has concluded, public accommodations laws do not simply guarantee access to goods or services. Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace. Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined.”

For more information on the Masterpiece decision, the status of state nondiscrimination laws around the country, and the path forward for securing comprehensive protections for all LGBTQ Americans, visit www.FreedomForAllAmericans.org.

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