Recently, however, the court has taken another action that suggests the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision might not be as narrow as previously believed. It may, in fact, have significance for other situations. On January 25, the court directed the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider a decision in a similar case involving a florist. The florist, who had previously served gay customers, declined to create a wedding flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding for religious reasons. The state aggressively pursued legal action against the florist, Barronelle Stutzman, and the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that she was guilty of discrimination.
That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which vacated the decision and sent the case back to the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider the case in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop. This gives the florist’s attorneys a chance to demonstrate any denigration of her religious beliefs by the state.
The Washington court should carefully consider this portion of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision that speculates on the kinds of scenarios where the state might infringe on the religious liberty of a business owner: “A baker’s refusal to attend the wedding to ensure that the cake is cut the right way, or a refusal to put certain religious words or decorations on the cake, or even a refusal to sell a cake that has been baked for the public generally but includes certain religious words or symbols on it are just three examples of possibilities that seem all but endless.” This passage provides important additional guidance because it notes that there are ways in which the state may compel actions that impede religious practice.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop decision could be a first step to a broad recognition that religious and other expression deserves protection against even well-meaning government actions.