Gay couple in Washington state wins legal battle against florist who cited religion to refuse doing their wedding
On Thursday, the nine-member Washington state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a florist in Richland had violated the state's anti-discrimination and consumer-protection laws when she refused to provide the flowers for a gay couple's 2013 wedding, citing her religious belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, can stop selling flowers to any wedding or sell to all weddings, but not discriminate on sexual orientation, the court ruled.
Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers, had sold flowers to Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, whom she knew were a gay couple, for years. But she drew a line at doing the flowers for their wedding. The couple sued, backed by the state attorney general and the ACLU, and won in lower court. Stutzman's lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, said they will appeal the closely watched case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sturtzman had argued that forcing her to cater to a same-sex wedding would violate her religious freedom and also her First Amendment rights, calling her floral arrangements artist expression. The court rejected both arguments, "emphatically," Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote in her 59-page ruling. "We agree with Ingersoll and Freed that 'this case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases were about access to sandwiches.'" The court cited a case from New Mexico where a photographer tried the artistic expression defense for not photographing a same-sex wedding, and lost. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take his case in 2014. The similar case of a baker from Colorado is pending before the court, however.
The Washington ruling is "a kind of case that hasn't come up before," University of Washington constitutional law professor Hugh Spitzer tells The New York Times, explaining that the legal principles are firmly settled for interracial marriage, business law, and creative expression. Fully extending those rights to same-sex couples is notable, he added, "but the principles are not new." Peter Weber
Afghan security forces announced Sunday that all six Taliban militants who took over Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel Saturday night have been killed.
At least 18 people, including 14 foreigners, were killed during the siege, and 10 injured. The militants were wearing suicide vests and exchanged gunfire with security forces, and witnesses said they went up and down the hallways of the luxury hotel, targeting foreigners and government officials. Several of the victims were employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline.
A spokesman for the Taliban said originally they wanted to attack the hotel on Thursday, but postponed their plans due to a wedding on the premises and wanting to avoid civilian casualties. Catherine Garcia
The New England Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20 during Sunday's AFC championship game, sending the team to its third Super Bowl in four years.
The Patriots had a late comeback, with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Quarterback Tom Brady, who has five Super Bowl victories under his belt and has been Super Bowl MVP four times, played with an injured hand, and completed 26 of 38 passes. The Patriots will play the winner of Sunday's NFC championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. Super Bowl LII is set for Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Catherine Garcia
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Sunday roundly rejected President Trump's proposal that the Senate GOP go "nuclear" to end the government shutdown without Democrat's help. "I can tell you that would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our founding fathers," Durbin said in an interview on ABC. "We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and in its procedure."
When Democrats controlled the Senate in years past, Durbin did not seem to hold this view. In 2014, for example, he defended Democrats' 2013 decision to invoke the nuclear option with judicial nominees by arguing Democrats had "no choice" because of Republican obstructionism.
But this time, Durbin has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on his side; McConnell said through a representative Sunday he "opposes changing the rules on legislation." Watch an excerpt of Durbin's comments on ABC below. Bonnie Kristian
Durbin on Trump calling on Republicans to end the filibuster: “That would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our Founding Fathers.” (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/SazNujALdp
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 21, 2018
The White House public comment line is not accepting calls during the government shutdown, and the voicemail message has been updated to blame this change on Democrats.
"Thank you for calling the White House," the message says. "Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today because congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate."
— Favian Quezada (@FavianQuezada) January 20, 2018
Callers are encouraged to contact the White House online instead, because apparently the internet is better suited to weathering the shutdown storm. Bonnie Kristian
Rand Paul calls for bipartisanship, immigration votes, and no more 'ridiculous' shutdown blame games
In an appearance on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went after both parties for their conduct during the government shutdown and throughout the bitterly partisan negotiations that produced it. "I think the blame game is ridiculous on both sides," he said. "I think the American people see through it."
Paul voted against his own party's proposal for a short-term funding bill on Friday, and he argues the GOP could secure a spending deal immediately if Republican leadership would guarantee — and Democrats would accept — an "open process" of votes on immigration policy, centrally including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
"The DACA issue has been held hostage to people on the left who want their perfect immigration bill or nothing, and people on the right who want nothing," Paul said on CNN. "And so, really, I'd say, let's vote on it. Let's just put it forward and vote on it. And I think the impasse could end today if Republicans would promise just to have a week of immigration votes, have a conclusion, let us all put forward amendments. I think the American people would like to see us hash out our differences through amendments and votes."
Watch a clip of Paul's interview below. Bonnie Kristian
Sen. Rand Paul calls for bipartisanship: “I’m kind of a believer in we were all elected, let’s vote on issues and let’s vote on amendments to issues. And I won’t win all the time, the Democrats won’t will all the time, but something will come out” #CNNSOTU https://t.co/4x9Lu3bw7T
— CNN (@CNN) January 21, 2018
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) argued on CBS Sunday that blame for the government shutdown rests entirely with Senate Democrats. "We're waiting for the Senate Democrats to open the government back up," Ryan told host John Dickerson.
"This is solely done by the Senate Democrats. It's absolutely meaningless," he continued, accusing Democrats of posturing that undercuts their own political aims. "What's so baffling about this is we [Republicans] were negotiating in good faith on [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)]," Ryan said. "We actually want to solve this problem. So it's not as if we were saying, 'No way, no how, no discussions.'"
Ryan made similar remarks on the House floor Saturday, pledging the GOP is "willing to work together in good faith on immigration" policy. "You should not have to go through this uncertainty," he said to federal workers. "You deserve so much better than this needless shutdown. And we hope that it will end very soon."
Watch an excerpt of Ryan's CBS interview below. Bonnie Kristian
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 21, 2018
President Trump tweeted Sunday that the GOP should change Senate rules to pass a funding bill to end the government shutdown without Democrats' help. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, has never shown enthusiasm for this "nuclear option," and he indicated through a representative Sunday he does not support Trump's idea.
"The Republican Conference opposes changing the rules on legislation," McConnell's statement said. That means it is unlikely a spending deal will be passed with a simple majority of 51 votes (rather than the present 60), as Trump hopes.
That intra-party opposition did not prevent the White House from continuing to advocate the change. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney argued on CNN's State of the Union Sunday that Trump's proposal "responds to this constant criticism we hear" that Republicans should be able to fund the government because they control both the executive and legislative branches.
"The answer is, as you've just laid out, it takes 60 votes in the Senate," Mulvaney said. "We cannot open the government without Senate Democrat support. We don't have that support, which is why we are where we are." Watch his comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian
White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney says the government shutdown shows that the Senate should end the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes for a bill to pass or get Democrats to lend their support #CNNSOTU https://t.co/B1M5RNIdXI
— CNN (@CNN) January 21, 2018