Thursday, June 28, 2018

Supreme Court Tells State’s Highest Court to Reconsider Case of Florist Who Declined Order for Gay Wedding

Barronelle Stutzman faces fines for violating Washington’s anti-discrimination law by declining to provide flower arrangements for a longtime gay customer’s wedding. (Photo: The Daily Signal)
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sent the case of a florist who declined to provide flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding back to the highest court in Washington state.

The Supreme Court asked the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider the case of Barronelle Stutzman, owner of a flower shop in Richland, Washington state, in light of its June 4 ruling in favor of Jack Phillips, a Christian baker in Colorado who declined to create a custom cake to celebrate a gay marriage.

“Today’s decision suggests that [the Phillips case] may provide more robust protections than many commentators initially thought,” Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation and author of “Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom,” told The Daily Signal in an email.

Both Stutzman and Phillips are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group that specializes in religious liberty. In both cases, the organization has argued that the First Amendment prevents government from forcing Americans to use their creative talents to express messages, such as same-sex marriage, with which they disagree.

Stutzman, a 73-year-old grandmother, faces fines for violating Washington’s anti-discrimination law by declining to provide the flowers for a longtime gay customer’s wedding. Like Phillips, she is a Christian who believes, as the Bible teaches, that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The 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,” Alliance Defending Freedom said in a formal statement.

The organization’s senior vice president in charge of its U.S. legal division, Kristen K. Waggoner, acted as lead counsel in Stutzman’s case, Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington, as well as Phillips’ case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Stutzman’s case goes back to March 2013, when customer Rob Ingersoll asked her to provide floral arrangements for his wedding to another man, Curt Freed.

“Barronelle Stutzman served a particular gay couple for almost a decade—happy birthday flowers and get-well-soon flowers—but couldn’t do the floral arrangements for their same-sex wedding,” Anderson told The Daily Signal, adding:

Rather than respect her conscience and religious liberty rights, the state attorney general [Ferguson] went after her. But this disagreement about marriage isn’t discrimination, and the government shouldn’t punish people simply for acting on their belief that marriage unites husband and wife.


Supreme Court rules against California law targeting anti-abortion pregnancy centers

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a major blow to a California law requiring anti-abortion pregnancy centers to inform women about publicly funded abortion and contraception services.

The 5-4 ruling by Justice Clarence Thomas, with the court's conservatives in the majority, said the law "likely" violates the First Amendment as a form of compelled speech.

"Licensed clinics must provide a government-drafted script about the availability of state-sponsored services, as well as contact information for how to obtain them," Thomas said. "One of those services is abortion — the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing."

In a concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the law is "a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought and expression."

The decision was aimed at a liberal state government seeking to notify pregnant women of their rights to an abortion. But it could have unintended consequences. Laws in more conservative states requiring women seeking abortions to view ultrasounds or learn about the growth of their fetus now could be at risk.

Justice Stephen Breyer read a synopsis of the four liberal justices' dissent from the bench. "If a state can lawfully require a doctor to tell a woman seeking an abortion about adoption services ... why should it not be able to require a medical counselor to tell a woman seeking prenatal care about childbirth and abortion services?" he said.

California's law forces licensed pregnancy centers to post notices about free or low-cost state programs that include abortion services. It also requires unlicensed centers to inform clients that they are not medical facilities. Challengers called it a form of compelled speech.

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion," said Michael Farris, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the pregnancy centers. "In this case, the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion.”

The justices were divided over the requirements during oral argument in March. The court's conservatives, including California's Anthony Kennedy, complained that the law targets only clinics that counsel women to complete their pregnancies. But liberal justices compared it to laws, upheld by the high court, that require doctors performing abortions to advise women about alternatives.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which operates or is associated with about 130 California pregnancy centers, argued such "informed consent" laws are warranted on the verge of a medical procedure, but the same is not true for centers counseling women to continue pregnancy.

The state contends that many pregnancy centers deceive and misinform clients by posing as medical clinics and running ads intended to attract women in search of traditional abortion and contraception services. It says more than half of its 700,000 pregnancies each year are unintended, and women need to know their options.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, decried the court ruling, which she said gives "fake health centers ... a free speech right to dress up like medical centers and deceive pregnant women."

While the Supreme Court made abortion legal nationwide in 1973 and has struck down state restrictions that block access for women, it has defended free speech rights in a number of recent cases.

Cities such as New York, San Francisco and Baltimore were first to enact laws imposing requirements on pregnancy centers. The facilities fought back in court — successfully in most cases — by arguing that the cities were discriminating based on their viewpoints.

A coalition of municipal groups argued that a ruling against California could put other required postings on shaky legal ground, such as those providing first aid instructions or requiring workers to wash their hands.


UK: Heterosexual pair WIN right to enter a civil partnership rather than get married after landmark Supreme Court ruling

A heterosexual couple have won the right to enter a civil partnership instead of getting married after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court. Five Supreme Court justices unanimously granted an appeal by Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41 this morning.

Speaking outside the court, the overjoyed pair said: 'We did it for Britain's 33million couples!'

Currently heterosexuals are not allowed to have a civil partnership because the Civil Partnership Act 2004 only allows same-sex couples.

But for four years Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan have argued it should be an option as well as marriage for cohabiting pairs. 

The academics, who live in Hammersmith, west London, suffered defeat at the Court of Appeal in February last year, but were given the go-ahead in August for a Supreme Court hearing today.

Speaking outside court this morning, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan spoke of their 'jubilation' following their landmark court victory after a four-year battle.

Ms Steinfield said: 'This is a resounding victory which would not have been possible without the help of our legal team.

'Today we are one step closer to making civil partnerships available for us all. But to get this far we have had to go toe to toe with the government over four years and they have wasted tax payer's money to defend an unfair system.

'So forgive us if today we also feel a degree of sorrow that is has taken this long to get to this point.'

Her partner Mr Keidan added: 'There are 33million cohabiting couples in the UK, we are the fastest growing family type.

He said: 'Many want legal and financial security but cannot have this because in the eyes of the law they are not married. The law and government needs to catch up with family life in 2018. People are already suffering because of this.

'Today's declaration means the government is legally bound to end the mistreatment of people who are not married; human rights is meant to be progressive.'

The couple then urged Women's Minister Penny Mordant to fast track a private member's bill supporting their cause.

The panel of Supreme Court justices, including the court's president, Lady Hale, heard the couple's case in May and announced their decision this morning.

The judges granted a declaration that the 2004 Act was 'incompatible' with human rights laws on discrimination and right to a private and family life. 

Lord Kerr, announcing the court's decision, said the Government 'does not seek to justify the difference in treatment between same-sex and different sex couples'.

He added: 'To the contrary, it accepts that the difference cannot be justified.'

What the Government sought was 'tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it'. He concluded: 'That cannot be characterised as a legitimate aim.'

Lord Kerr said it was 'salutary to recall that a declaration of incompatibility does not oblige the Government or Parliament to do anything'.

The couple, who have two daughters aged nine months and two, claimed the Government's position is 'incompatible with equality law'.

During the hearing, their barrister, Karon Monaghan QC, told the court they have 'deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage' and are 'not alone' in their views.

She said matrimony was 'historically heteronormative and patriarchal' and the couple's objections were 'not frivolous'.

Ms Monaghan added: 'These are important issues, no small matters, and they are serious for my clients because they cannot marry conformable with their conscience and that should weigh very heavily indeed.'

The Court of Appeal agreed that the couple had established a potential violation of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to discrimination, taken with Article 8, which refers to respect for private and family life.


‘You are unbalanced & one-sided’: Hungary’s FM tells BBC reporter in heated migration debate

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto hit back at a BBC reporter who suggested his government is xenophobic and authoritarian during an intense interview, in which the politician defended his country’s immigration record.

As Hungary’s foreign affairs chief sat down for an interview with BBC Newsnight on Tuesday, the talk quickly turned heated. Reporter Emily Maitlis recalled how the Hungarian parliamentary election, which happened two months ago, was criticized by the nation’s opposition parties.

“There is a sense of erosion of the rule of law. This is no longer a democracy. It is creeping authoritarianism,” she told Szijjarto, whose conservative Fidesz party won over 70 percent of votes in April. The minister rebuffed the allegations.

“You echo lies on this television. And I don’t think it’s fair. You are unbalanced, you are one-sided,” he responded. “You look only at the opinion of those who are frustrated because they lost the election.”

BBC’s Maitlis also suggested that Hungary’s anti-immigration law “flouts human rights” and recalled the fierce rhetoric of country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, known for branding certain migrants “Muslim invaders” and speaking about the need to protect “Christian Hungary.”

“So, this isn’t actually about immigration, is it? It’s about xenophobia,” the reporter told Szijjarto who said that he considered the accusation a “very serious insult.”

“What we don’t want is a massive illegal influx coming from the south to us. We want to keep Hungary a Hungarian country. And we don’t think multiculturalism is by definition good,” he explained. “I understand that the liberal mainstream doesn’t like our laws. But it is the Hungarian voters whose expectations we have to fulfill.”

Orban’s Hungarian government regularly faces criticism from the European Union and human rights groups for its ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards migration from the Middle East and Africa. Hungary is one of the few countries that refuses to accept mandatory migrant quotas proposed by the EU.

Last week, Hungary adopted a controversial bill punishing NGOs and aid workers suspected of “enabling illegal immigration.” The law, like many of Hungary’s anti-immigration measures, was denounced by various human rights watchdogs.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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