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The Arizona Supreme Court ruled two business owners did not have to make invitations for a same-sex wedding

A 2013 Phoenix law that adds "sexual orientation, gender identity or expression" to the city's nondiscrimination ordinance violated the freedom of speech and...

Posted: Sep 17, 2019 9:21 AM
Updated: Sep 17, 2019 2:00 PM

A 2013 Phoenix law that adds 'sexual orientation, gender identity or expression' to the city's nondiscrimination ordinance violated the freedom of speech and religious beliefs of two business owners, the Arizona Supreme Court said in a 4-3 ruling Monday.

Wedding invitation designers Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, filed a lawsuit to challenge the city ordinance out of fear they'd be put in jail for refusing to create custom invitations that 'celebrate same-sex marriage,' the court decision says.

The city ordinance prohibits public accommodations from discriminating against people of protected status -- which includes sexual orientation. But neither the state nor federal civil rights accommodation statutes 'lists sexual orientation as a legally protected status,' the decision says.

Both the owners are Christians and seek to operate their business 'consistent with their religious beliefs,' the court says.

'Duka and Koski's beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some,' the court decision reads. 'But the guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive. They are for everyone.'

The two women's work is inspired by their faith, Jonathan Scruggs, their attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom said Monday.

'Through their custom artwork they seek to convey messages that are consistent with their beliefs and as the court explained today, this means that while they create artwork for all people they cannot create custom artwork to celebrate and promote messages they disagree with,' Scruggs said.

'What matters is the message, not the person,' he added.

Duka also said after the ruling that the two would 'gladly serve everyone but we cannot create custom artwork celebrating certain events.'

The owners sued in 2016 but lost their case in the Maricopa County Superior Court in 2017 and the Arizona Court of Appeals in 2018.

The new ruling is narrow, applying to only this business, and did not strike down the city's law, said Eric Fraser, the attorney who argued on behalf of the city.

'Freedom won'

Shortly after the ruling, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said the court's decision was 'not a win but it is not a loss.'

'We will continue to have a debate over equality in this community,' she said, adding that the city's non-discrimination ordinance still stands. 'We will not stop with our fight.'

The mayor also said the case was never about one business but whether 'we would accept discrimination in our community.'

'A core tenet of our nation is freedom of religion but freedom of religion does not mean freedom to discriminate. Personal convictions cannot be used as an excuse for outward bigotry,' the mayor said. 'If you serve someone in your community, you should serve all people in our community.'

But attorney Scruggs said in a separate news conference the decision meant 'freedom won.'

'Everyone should enjoy the freedom to peacefully live out their beliefs,' he said. 'This ruling transcends this particular subject matter. It protects atheist musicians from being forced to perform at Easter services. It protects LGBT web designers from being forced to create websites criticizing same-sex marriage.'

Having that freedom means being able to 'peacefully live and work according to their beliefs without fear of unjust punishment,' Duka said.

'We brought our case to protect this freedom not just for us, but for all Americans,' she added.

License to discriminate

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Christopher P. Staring wrote he was concerned that 'ironically, today's holding could be relied on to discriminate against individuals based on their religion and religious beliefs.'

That's the concern echoed by the Human Rights Campaign, which called the ruling 'a license to discriminate.'

'Today's decision could also open the door for discrimination against other communities protected by the ordinance including religious minorities and women. LGBTQ Arizonans pay taxes, own businesses, serve in our military and contribute to our economy, and they deserve a government that stands with them,' the organization's Deputy Campaign Director Justin Unga said in a statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona called the decision 'disappointing,' but emphasized the ruling was not a 'blanket license' for businesses to discriminate, but was specific only to the Phoenix business.

'We'll keep fighting to ensure protections for LGBT Arizonans so that no one can be fired from their job, denied a place to live, or be turned away from a business simply because of who they are and who they love,' ACLU of Arizona Policy Director Darrell Hill said in a statement.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 751526

Reported Deaths: 13799
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033281788
Lake557151010
Allen41710692
St. Joseph36998565
Hamilton36604417
Elkhart29413461
Tippecanoe22914227
Vanderburgh22559400
Porter19359326
Johnson18477389
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Clark13228195
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Warrick7860156
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Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6972103
Morgan6765141
Dubois6221118
Marshall6211116
Cass6017110
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Gibson445094
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Ohio57911
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109025

Reported Deaths: 20166
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1287651467
Cuyahoga1158292211
Hamilton814131250
Montgomery525601043
Summit484401001
Lucas43364820
Butler39021606
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Delaware18860136
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Fairfield16577204
Trumbull16555482
Medina15613271
Greene15284248
Clark14237306
Wood13293200
Portage13251215
Allen11914239
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Miami10850225
Wayne9147223
Columbiana9036230
Muskingum8907135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8651250
Marion8646138
Erie8057165
Ashtabula7162179
Hancock6999132
Ross6946161
Geauga6841151
Scioto6536106
Belmont6159174
Union584649
Lawrence5734102
Jefferson5680158
Huron5547122
Sandusky5443126
Darke5420129
Seneca5349128
Washington5320109
Athens524360
Auglaize502287
Mercer487385
Shelby476895
Knox4572112
Madison444466
Ashland435797
Putnam4336103
Defiance432399
Fulton432174
Crawford4040110
Brown402461
Logan387677
Preble3856105
Clinton379166
Ottawa373681
Highland359865
Williams348278
Champaign344859
Guernsey325153
Jackson318254
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285550
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Van Wert247264
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Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
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Carroll197348
Paulding176542
Meigs148540
Monroe136344
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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