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Florist who refused to make an arrangement for a same-sex couple drops Supreme Court challenge

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(CNN) — A Washington state florist who refused to make an arrangement for a couple out of religious objections to same-sex marriage is withdrawing a pending petition before the Supreme Court after announcing that she has settled her dispute, according to her lawyers.

The settlement means the justices won’t — for now — wade into another bitter religious liberty dispute pitting a business owner who refuses to serve a same-sex couple against state laws that bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Barronelle Stutzman “has chosen to retire so her beloved employees can run her business, Arlene’s Flowers,” attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement. “She will withdraw a pending petition for rehearing at the U.S. Supreme Court and make a payment of only $5,000 to the two men who sued her.”

Her lawyers said that she is “at peace” with the settlement because she can “finally retire with her conscience intact, and she knows that the legal effort to protect the artistic freedoms of creative professionals” will continue in other challenges.

The dispute started when Stutzman declined to make an arrangement in 2013 for her long-time client Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed for his wedding. The Washington state Supreme Court held that Stutzman violated a state 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.

“We are glad the Washington Supreme Court rulings will stay in place to ensure that same-sex couples are protected from discrimination and should be served by businesses like anyone else,” plaintiffs Ingersoll and Freed said in a statement. “It was painful to be turned away and we are thankful that this long journey for us is finally over.”

The couple said they will donate the $5,000 to a local advocacy group that provides peer support, education and advocacy to LGBTQ+ people, their parents and allies.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition from Stutzman last July over the dissent of Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, but lawyers for the florist asked the court to reconsider its decision, citing a decision in a separate dispute.

“Barronelle has been embroiled in litigation for almost nine years, and with this Court’s denial of her petition, she now faces a crippling financial penalty in the form of Respondents’ claim for attorney fees,” her lawyers told the justices in briefs at the time.

In 2018, 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.

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