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Response or Comment

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This amicus curiae brief addresses a fundamental state-law premise of Appellants’ constitutional claims that has gone largely unexplored in the prior briefing: whether Arlene’s Flowers, a Washington for-profit corporation, may obtain an exemption from generally applicable laws based on the religious beliefs of a shareholder, Mrs. Stutzman. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Appellants assert that “Arlene’s free-exercise rights are synonymous with Mrs. Stutzman’s.” Those two cases, however, had nothing to do with Washington corporate law and took no stance on the authority of Washington corporations to raise constitutional claims of their shareholders. The assertion that Mrs. Stutzman’s rights are synonymous with the corporation depends on Washington state law and runs counter to the foundational Washington corporate law principle, expressed in Grayson v. Nordic Constr. Co., that “[a] corporation exists as an organization distinct from the personality of its shareholders.”

This amicus curiae brief addresses the significance of corporate separateness to Washington’s law of corporations and explains how Appellants’ arguments rest on a conflation of those distinctions. This Court’s consideration of the constitutional claims in this case will be aided by a full understanding of these important, antecedent aspects of Washington law.