LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday led a 13-state coalition in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the right of a florist in Washington state to deny services to a same-sex couple because of the florist’s religious beliefs.


The brief was filed in the case of Barronelle Stutzman, who is being sued by the state of Washington for declining to create a floral arrangement and oversee its placement at a same-sex wedding. The state is suing Stutzman under its anti-discrimination law and unfair business practices act.


The brief states, “Our history encourages a public square with many voices, all trying to persuade others of their views. But respondents want all the voices either to agree on one view or to be silent. Because that runs counter to America’s history of free speech and religious exemptions — which are embedded in Washington’s constitution — (the states) respectfully urge this court to rule in appellants’ favor.”


Rutledge said in a statement Thursday, “Along with my colleagues, I am urging the Washington Supreme Court to recognize that the actions of the defendant are not discriminatory or unlawful but rather reflect sincerely held religious beliefs that should be accommodated in our pluralistic and tolerant society.”


Joining Arkansas in the filing are Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.


Last year, the Arkansas Legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson approved a “religious freedom” law that prohibits the state from infringing on a person’s religious beliefs without a compelling reason.