Rutledge Co-Leads Brief to U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Free Speech and Religious Conscience
August 22, 2017
Says, the court ‘must recognize that the actions of this florist in Washington are protected by the Constitution’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has co-led a 14-state coalition in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to grant review and protect the freedom of speech and religious conscience rights of citizens, specifically a Washington florist named Barronelle Stutzman.
“The U.S. Supreme Court must recognize that the actions of this florist in Washington are protected by the Constitution,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It would be unlawful and cruel to compel someone to express ideas that violate their deeply held-religious beliefs even after working to refer the customer to another business.”
Rutledge led a coalition of states in support of Stutzman in the Washington State Supreme Court in September 2016.
Stutzman declined to create a floral arrangement for and oversee its placement at a same-sex wedding based on her religious beliefs. She was subsequently sued by the State of Washington under its discrimination law and unfair business practices act, despite referring the longtime customer to other florists. Stutzman has served this particular client for years, considered him a friend and remains willing to serve him in the future. She simply believes based on her religious beliefs that she could not participate in, and use her artistic talents to create a flower arrangement for, the same-sex marriage.
The Washington State Supreme Court maintained that flower arrangements are not speech and that her referral to other florists was irreverent. The 72-year-old grandmother, who is defending against this legal action, now faces fines and legal fees estimated at $2 million, which could put her out of business.
As the states note, “government having the ability to order individuals to speak in a manner that violates their conscience is fundamentally at odds with the freedom of expression and tolerance for a diversity of viewpoints that this nation has long enjoyed and promoted.
Rutledge is co-leading this brief along with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. They are joined in the brief by the attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, along with Governor Matthew Bevin of Kentucky and Maine Governor Paul LePage.