June 25 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sent a pair of high-profile cases — one in which a florist refused to cater a same-sex wedding and one on redrawing political districts in North Carolina — back to lower courts.
In an unsigned order, the justices vacated a lower court ruling that found a Washington state florist intentionally discriminated against a same-sex couple by refusing to provide flowers. It returned the case to Washington’s Supreme Court, giving florist Barronelle Stutzman an opportunity to restate her case.
Monday’s action came weeks after a Supreme Court decision in a similar case in Colorado.
In that case, a baker refused to design and create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple — arguing it opposed his religious beliefs. The court sided with the baker on narrow grounds, ruling the Colorado Civil Rights Commission treated him unfairly when it first heard the case. In delivering the court’s opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said states are well within their power to enact anti-discrimination measures in public accommodations laws, but laws must be fairly enforced.
In Stutzman’s case, the Washington State Supreme Court must now interpret whether she was treated fairly when the court first heard her case.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the couple seeking the floral arrangements, said by not taking the case, the high court paved the way for the state court to again rule in the couple’s favor.
“To be clear, the court made no indication the lower courts ruled incorrectly and made no decision on the case’s merits,” ACLU official James Esseks said in a statement. “We are confident that the Washington State Supreme Court will rule once again in favor of the same-sex couple, and reaffirm its decision that no business has a right to discriminate.”
Also Monday, the high court refused to decide if states can redraw election maps to favor one political party over another, a process known as gerrymandering.
The justices sent a North Carolina case back to a federal district court for review. The action was based on flaws it found in a similar case last week that involved a redrawing of Wisconsin’s districts.
The court chose not to set a precedent by declaring the practice of gerrymandering unconstitutional.
Because of a state court ruling, Pennsylvania is the only state in which 2018 elections will be held in districts redrawn to reflect features other than partisan politics.