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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 20, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 38
Arizona Supreme Court OKs anti-LGBT discrimination
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Arizona Supreme Court OKs anti-LGBT discrimination

4-3 majority says religion trumps equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Arizona State Supreme Court ruled on September 16 that businesses may turn away LGBT customers if they offer a religious excuse for doing so. The majority in favor of privileging religious sentiments was a narrow 4-to-3.

The case involved a calligraphy studio, called Brush & Nib, that refused to provide wedding invitations for same-sex couples. The owners of the business, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, claimed their Christian religion forbade them from sanctioning same-sex marriages.

Their decision not to accommodate LGBT customers put them squarely in violation of Phoenix City Code 18-4(B)(1)-(3). Adopted in 2013, the ordinance prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability. It applies to businesses offering services to the general public.

Duka and Koski sued the City of Phoenix over the law, saying it violated their First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion. Lower courts upheld the city ordinance, but the majority of the state's high court agreed with Duka and Koski.

'The rights of free speech and free exercise, so precious to this nation since its founding, are not limited to soft murmurings behind the doors of a person's home or church, or private conversations with like-minded friends and family,' Justice Andrew Gould wrote in the majority opinion.

'These guarantees protect the right of every American to express their beliefs in public. This includes the right to create and sell words, paintings, and art that express a person's sincere religious beliefs.

'With these fundamental principles in mind, today we hold that the City of Phoenix ... cannot apply its Human Relations Ordinance ... to force Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, LC ('Brush & Nib'), to create custom wedding invitations celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs. Duka, Koski, and Brush & Nib ('Plaintiffs') have the right to refuse to express such messages under article 2, section 6 of the Arizona Constitution, as well as Arizona's Free Exercise of Religion Act ('FERA'), A.R.S. ยง 41-1493.01.'

Local human rights activists charged that Brush & Nib was a creation of the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom - a fake business specifically created to give the Alliance a vehicle to challenge city law.

They noted that Brush & Nib sued the City of Phoenix preemptively, without having had any encounters with potential LGBT customers. Brush & Nib does not currently maintain a physical location but sells its products and services off the website Etsy - in spite of Etsy's nondiscrimination polices.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has also recruited two Minnesota videographers to set up a wedding video business that then challenged that state's Human Rights Act.

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Creating Community Now: Join the upcoming Generations Celebration and the LGBTQ Health and Longevity Conference on October 4 and 5
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'Pose' actress Angelica Ross to host presidential candidate forum on LGBTQ issues
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43rd District Dems break with tradition, endorse Sawant
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Arizona Supreme Court OKs anti-LGBT discrimination
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IN MEMORIAM - BRIAN A. WILLETT
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IN MEMORIAM: MIKE SCHEMM
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Lambda Legal and MMAA urge 4th Circuit to uphold court order preventing discharge of HIV-positive airmen, in lawsuit against Pentagon
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HRC responds to decision in Brush & Nib Studio v. Phoenix
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HRC report: State and federal officials failing LGBTQ community in data collection
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Sierra Club denounces Trump administration's indefensible attack on states' freedom to curb vehicle pollution
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New report offers look at lives of LGBT People of Color in rural America, shattering stereotypes of life in rural communities
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The Human Rights Campaign to honor Dominique Jackson and welcome Ryan Russell and Jake Choi to the 23rd Annual National Dinner
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