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AZ high court gives okay to discriminate against LGBT customers

AZ high court gives okay to discriminate against LGBT customers.
Photo credit:
Wikimedia Commons

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that Phoenix's anti-discrimination ordinance which was supposed to protect LGBT people is not valid in the case of Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski who own Brush & Nib Studio, an event invitation design company. 

The owners of the company believe that since they are religiously opposed to same-sex marriage, they shouldn't have to create invitations that support that. On Monday the high court agreed. 

The women sued the City back in 2016 over the matter. The lower courts decisions initially supported the ordinance, but those were overturned in a 4-3 opinion yesterday.

Justice Andrew Gould wrote in the opinion on Monday: “With these fundamental principles in mind, today we hold that the City of Phoenix (the “City”) cannot apply its Human Relations Ordinance (the “Ordinance”) to force Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studios, LC (“Brush & Nib”), to create custom wedding invitations celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The Mayor of Phoenix Kate Gallego (D) said the discussion of equality is far from over even after the high court ruling.

"Today's decision is not a win, but it is not a loss," Gallego said. "It means we will continue to have a debate over equality in this community."

Scottsdale's faith-based group Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative, religious, "pro-family" organization represented the women in the case. 

The LGBT community is worried about the effect that this could have on similar cases in the future. 

The civil rights organization Lambda Legal and supporter of the City ordinance said today's decision is troubling and that it grants the business owners a limited license to discriminate. 

"The Court misguidedly has concluded that free speech protections allow businesses to express antigay religious views by denying particular custom-design services to customers because of who they are," said Lambda Legal Director Jennifer C. Pizer in a statement. "This ruling is dramatically at odds with decisions by courts across the country that have instead refused to create a religious license for businesses to exempt themselves from civil rights laws, and to pick and choose their customers according to their own religious criteria.

“The Arizona Court of Appeals last summer issued a thoughtful and comprehensive ruling that held that the operation of a stationary store, including designing and selling customized wedding merchandise, is not an expression of the business owners’ ideas and therefore not entitled to free speech protections. A majority of the justices on the Arizona Supreme Court disagreed.”

The Brush & Nib Studio case is among many in which shop owners feel they should be able to deny their services to LGBT clients based on religious freedom including the Oregon case of Sweetcakes by Melissa which will head back to the state appeals court at the request of the U.S. Supreme Court.