Several prominent Washington businesses, including Amazon, Expedia, Group Health, Microsoft and REI, have signed onto a “friend of the court” brief in the Arlene’s Flowers case.
The businesses want the state Supreme Court to uphold a ruling that the Richland flower shop’s owner broke the law when she refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding.
The state’s “broad and comprehensive enforcement of anti-discrimination statutes provides significant business and economic benefits,” the 20-page brief says.
And, “natural and unacceptable business and economic harms” would be caused by allowing discrimination against same-sex couples — or any other protected class — based on religious belief, it says.
In all, 14 businesses are part of the brief, along with the Greater Seattle Business Association, the Inland Northwest Business Alliance, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Tabor 100.
Barronelle Stutzman owns Arlene’s Flowers on Lee Boulevard. In 2013, longtime customer Robert Ingersoll approached her about his wedding to partner Curt Freed.
Though she had sold them flowers for years, Stutzman declined to provide wedding services, citing her religious beliefs. She’s a Christian from the Southern Baptist tradition.
Lawsuits followed, and in February 2015 Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom ruled that Stutzman broke the law.
In 2012, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults in the U.S. represented $790 billion in total buying power — a significant force in local economies.
Amicus brief in Arlene’s Flowers case
Stutzman’s attorneys appealed directly to the state Supreme Court.
Briefs are being exchanged. A hearing for oral arguments in the case that’s drawn national attentions has yet to be scheduled.
In the amicus brief, the businesses argue that they — and others in the state — “would be impacted by a ruling allowing for discriminatory treatment in public accommodation.”
It would hurt their ability to recruit and retain diverse employees, and it also would undermine the state economy, they said.
“In 2012, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults in the U.S. represented $790 billion in total buying power — a significant force in local economies. If discrimination against LGBT individuals is justified by religious beliefs, as appellants urge, LGBT individuals may leave Washington for a more tolerant location,” the brief says.
Tourism also would be affected, the brief says.
And, a ruling in favor of Stutzman “puts all anti-discrimination laws in Washington at risk,” with a proposed outcome that’s “nothing less than a ‘free pass’ for discrimination in Washington,” the brief says.
Stutzman’s attorneys have said she declined her services not because of Ingersoll’s and Freed’s sexual orientation, but because of her religious views on marriage.
She has the right to free speech and exercise of religion, they’ve said.