News and Events

Washington Supreme Court Reaffirms February 2017 Ruling in State v. Arlene's Flowers

June 06, 2019  By HCMP Law Offices

The Washington Supreme Court today unanimously reaffirmed its February 2017 ruling that a Richland florist violated the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws when she refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding. Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll were refused service by Arlene’s Flowers because they are gay. HCMP and the ACLU of Washington represented Freed and Ingersoll in their lawsuit (Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers) against the florist for violating their rights.

"We are thrilled that the Court has reaffirmed its ruling in our favor. Discrimination hurts, especially while planning what should be one of the happiest times of your life," said Freed and Ingersoll. "We hope that this ruling will prevent what happened to us from happening to others."

In its ruling the Court said, “We agree with Ingersoll and Freed that ‘[t]his case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.’ ... 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.”

The Washington Law Against Discrimination (the WLAD, ch. 49.60 RCW) guarantees the right to be free from discrimination in public accommodations based on race, creed, national origin, sex, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. Thus, it prohibits businesses that are open to the general public from refusing to sell goods, merchandise, and services because of a person’s sexual orientation.

Today’s decision upheld, one again, a 2015 ruling by the Benton County Superior Court that the refusal of Arlene’s Flowers to sell flowers to the couple violated the longstanding Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Consumer Protection Act. Civil rights groups, LGBT groups, large and small businesses, faith groups, and bar associations submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the couple during the litigation. The suit was heard jointly with the consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene's Flowers brought by the State of Washington.

Representing Ingersoll and Freed for the ACLU are cooperating HCMP attorneys Amit Ranade and Jake Ewart, ACLU of WA Legal Director Emily Chiang and Staff Attorney Lisa Nowlin, and ACLU LGBT and HIV Project staff attorney Elizabeth Gill.