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Supreme Court vacates lower court’s verdict against florist

Good news about Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, who was sued by the Attorney General of Washington State for refusing to create floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding. Here’s the report from the Alliance Defending Freedom:

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case of floral artist Barronelle Stutzman back to the Washington Supreme Court Monday, after vacating that court’s decision and instructing it to reconsider her lawsuit in light of the recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

In that similar case, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Colorado’s decision to punish cake artist Jack Phillips for living and working consistently with his religious beliefs about marriage, just as Stutzman has also been trying to do while under legal attack by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union. The two sued Stutzman after she declined, because of her faith, to design custom floral arrangements celebrating the same-sex wedding of a customer she had served for nearly 10 years. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent both Stutzman and Phillips.

After the Masterpiece decision, the scuttlebutt was that the Supreme Court ruled narrowly and did not make much of a precedent. Well, the Supreme Court itself just ruled that the Masterpiece precedent is grounds for vacating the lower court’s ruling against Barronelle Stutzman. This is really good news.

I have a particular interest in this case for a couple of reasons. First, Ms. Stutzman is a fellow Southern Baptist, and she has risked everything to be faithful to what we believe the Bible teaches about marriage.

Second, I offered testimony in the early stages of this case. And that day of testimony has impacted me to this day. When I was first asked to give testimony, I thought my role as an SBC pastor and seminary professor would simply be to enter into the record what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. But that is not at all what it turned out to be.

For an entire day, I sat across the table from attorneys representing the Washington Attorney General and the ACLU (two different attorneys because Ms. Stutzman is being sued by the state and by the gay couple that she was once friends with). These attorneys didn’t merely ask me what Southern Baptist believe. They tried to show that what Southern Baptists believe amounts to invidious discrimination.

I had to defend not only our denomination’s statement of faith (The Baptist Faith and Message) but also resolutions passed by our denomination going back 30 and 40 years. It was hostile questioning intended to discredit what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. They wanted to discredit us so that they could discredit her. And make no mistake, had they succeeded in punishing her, others would have used the precedent to punish the rest of us—and not just Southern Baptists but any person who dares to act on their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

My one day of questioning is nothing compared to what Ms. Stutzman has gone through in all of this. Pray for her and her husband. She is happy to serve gay people in her flower shop. She always has been and always will be happy to do that. She has simply asked that the state not coerce her to participate in a gay wedding. The State of Washington ruled against her. The Supreme Court has now vacated that ruling.

It remains to be seen how the lower court will respond now that its ruling has been vacated. Stay tuned.