My State Turned My Life Upside Down Because of My Religious Beliefs

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The court vindicated my friend Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and condemned the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for its “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Jack’s beliefs.

This week, I have renewed hope that I will be vindicated too.

I’m grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Washington Supreme Court’s decision against me so that my case can continue. If the state of Washington and the ACLU have their way, I could lose not just the flower shop that is so close to my heart, but also my home and every penny I own.

I risk losing everything because my state’s attorney general targeted me and my religious beliefs. More than five years ago, I chose not to participate in the same-sex wedding of a longtime friend and customer named Rob because of my religious beliefs about marriage. Without receiving a complaint from Rob, the state filed a lawsuit against me, as did the ACLU.

I and the Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys who represent me (and Jack) are encouraged that the Supreme Court, in the Masterpiece case, ruled that the government cannot be hostile to the sincere religious beliefs of people of faith. It rightly recognized that it is wrong for the government to denigrate those who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Neither Jack Phillips nor I has ever suggested that a business should have the right to deny service just because customers say they’re gay. And that’s not what the Supreme Court ruled.

I serve every customer who comes to my shop. But the government is trying to force me to create custom artistic expression and celebrate a religious ceremony that violates my core convictions about marriage.

My faith inspires me to treat everyone with respect and love, and I have done my best to live out those beliefs. I have never turned anyone away because of who they are. And I never will.

Serving But Not Celebrating

I served Rob for nearly a decade and grew to know him as a friend. I created dozens of unique, custom arrangements for him and for his partner. I knew Rob was gay, but that was never an issue. Even today, I would gladly welcome Rob back into my shop, catch up on his life, and wait on him for another 10 years.

I opted out of celebrating one event—Rob’s wedding—because Scripture teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. It was the clear choice that I had to make because my faith guides my life, but it was a difficult moment because I care deeply for Rob. I gave Rob the names of other nearby floral artists who I knew would do a good job for him. Our conversation ended with a hug. We parted as friends. And yet my decision now threatens everything my husband and I have built over 40 years.

Rob has the freedom to act on his beliefs about marriage. I am only asking for the same freedom. Millions of people of faith—from faith traditions as diverse as Islam and Christianity—believe that marriage is the union of husband and wife. The government shouldn’t tell us that we must hide, ignore, or violate our beliefs in order to participate in public life.

This isn’t just about my freedom. It is about everyone’s freedom. If the government can require us to create art and participate in sacred events, or take all we own and destroy us for declining to submit to its demands, then we aren’t really free. Wherever you stand on the issue of same-sex marriage, we should all fear a government that can crush one side or the other.

Opinions and political power change. The First Amendment should protect all of us.