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Supreme Court rejects appeal from florist who wouldn’t make arrangement for same-sex wedding

<i>Alex Wong/Getty Images</i><br/>The U.S. Supreme Court rejects an appeal from florist Barronelle Stutzman who wouldn't make arrangement for same-sex wedding. Stutzman here speaks on December 5
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Alex Wong/Getty Images
The U.S. Supreme Court rejects an appeal from florist Barronelle Stutzman who wouldn't make arrangement for same-sex wedding. Stutzman here speaks on December 5

By Ariane de Vogue and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

The US Supreme Court on Friday declined to take up an appeal from a Washington state florist who refused to make an arrangement for a same-sex couple out of religious concerns regarding same-sex marriage.

The Washington state Supreme Court in June had ruled against the florist, Barronelle Stutzman, who declined to make a floral arrangement in 2013 for long-time client Robert Ingersoll’s same-sex wedding.

The court said Stutzman’s refusal violated a state anti-discrimination law that bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It said the law was “neutral” and served the states’ interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.

In a statement Friday, Stuzman’s lawyer Kristen Waggoner called the outcome of the case “tragic” and said “the critical work of protecting the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans must continue.”

“No one should be forced to express a message or celebrate an event they disagree with,” she added.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union praised the Supreme Court on Friday for staying out of the dispute.

“Today the Supreme Court confirmed that LGBTQ people should receive equal service when they walk into a store,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.

Ingersoll said in a statement, “We hope this decision sends a message to other LGBTQ people that no one should have to experience the hurt that we did.”

The court’s move comes after it ruled unanimously this term in favor of a Catholic Foster Care agency that declined to work with same-sex couples as potential parents.

“The Court’s decision to leave the lower-court ruling intact sends a couple of different messages,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “On one hand, the Court is refusing to go any further than it went in the Catholic Social Services decision from last week, and is thereby siding with the State of Washington’s enforcement of its antidiscrimination laws over religious objections.”

“On the other hand, it’s going to remain more than a little unclear when states can and cannot require secular businesses to provide services to those whose practices offend the owners’ religious beliefs. The Court isn’t willing to take that up now, but it’s surely going to have to sooner rather than later,” Vladeck added.

Two years ago, the court had sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. That ruling, however, was carefully tailored to the case at hand and was not a broad nationwide verdict on whether businesses could decline services to same-sex couples based on religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch indicated that they would have taken up the dispute for next term.

Court declines reconsidering major property rights precedent

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected reconsidering a major property rights precedent, over the dissent of Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Thomas and Gorsuch.

The precedent stemmed from a controversial 2005 opinion — Kelo v. New London — that allowed the government to seize the house of a resident and transfer it to another private owner as a part of an economic revitalization plan of the Connecticut city.

In dissent Friday, Thomas said his colleagues should have moved to “correct the mistake” it made in the 2005 decision.

“That decision was wrong the day it was decided,” he said, “and it remains wrong today.”

At issue in the case was the scope of the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause that says that private property shall not be taken for public use, without “just compensation.”

Lawyers for New London resident Suzette Kelo argued back then that taking the property to sell it to private developers to further economic development did not fall into the category of “public use.”

On Friday, Thomas said that “taking land from one private party to give to another rarely will be for ‘public use.'”

“The majority in Kelo strayed from the Constitution to diminish the right to be free from private takings,” he added.

In the end, the town of New London never went forward with the development, leaving the land vacant.

The new case that the court declined to take up on Friday was brought by Fred Eychaner, who owned property in Chicago that was condemned. A lower court held that the land could be taken “to prevent future blight and to promote economic development.”

This story has been updated with additional details and reaction.

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