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The adjudicatory body tasked with deciding a particular case must remain neutral; that is, the adjudicatory body must “give full and fair consideration” to the dispute before it and avoid animus toward religion. Disputes like those presented in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n and Arlene’s Flowers, Inc. v. Washington must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.
In separate actions, the State and a same-sex couple sought to enforce a state statute prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation against a retail floral shop and its owner for refusing to provide custom floral arrangements for the couple's wedding. The plaintiffs also sought relief under the Consumer Protection Act. The owner claimed that her refusal to furnish the couple with wedding floral services was protected by the constitutional rights of free speech, free exercise of religion, and freedom of association. After the two cases were consolidated, the Superior Court entered summary judgments for the plaintiffs, awarding permanent injunctive relief, monetary damages for the couple to cover actual damages, and attorney fees. The court also found the owner personally liable for the consumer protection violation. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, holding that the refusal to serve the couple for their wedding constituted discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination; that as applied to the owner, the Law Against Discrimination did not violate the federal constitutional right to freedom of speech, the state or federal constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, or the federal constitutional right of freedom of association; and that the owner could be personally liable for the consumer protection violation. The defendants then petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, seeking review of their federal free speech and free exercise claims. Before ruling on the petition, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 1719, 201 L. Ed. 2d 35 (2018), a case involving similar issues. The Supreme Court granted the petition, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case for further consideration, in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop, of whether the Washington courts violated the United States Constitution's guaranty of religious neutrality in their prior adjudication of the case.
Did the Washington courts violate the United States Constitution’s guaranty of religious neutrality in the court’s prior adjudication of the case?
On remand, the Court held that the adjudicatory bodies did not act with religious animus when they ruled that the florist and her corporation violated Wash. Rev. Code § 49.60.215(1) by refusing to provide custom floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding and that such discrimination was not privileged or excused by the First Amendment, U.S. Const. amend. I, or Wash. Const. art. 1, § 11, because the bodies remained neutral in all of the circumstances in which this case was presented, considered, and decided. Moreover, the Court held that the judgment was proper because the refusal constituted discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of "sexual orientation," Wash. Rev. Code § 49.60.215(1) did not violate the florist's free speech right, there was no violation of the right to the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment or Wash. Const. art. I, § 11, and the florist's right to freedom of association was not violated.