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Phoenix court says wedding invitation business can’t discriminate due to religion

Phoenix court says wedding invitation business can’t discriminate due to religion

Phoenix business owners Joanna and Breanna

An appeals court in Phoenix, Arizona recently ruled it’s illegal for businesses to refuse service to LGBTI people on the basis of religion.

The decision comes days after the US Supreme Court handed down its narrow ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshope. They sided with a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The specifity of the Supreme Court’s ruling made no comment on discrimination, free speech, and free exercise.

Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, argued the city’s anti-discrimination law barring them from refusing to make same-sex wedding invitations, violates their constitutional and religious rights. The city added sexual orientation and gender identity to the law in 2013.

They first brought their lawsuit in 2016.

The city of Phoenix defended their anti-discrimination ordinance and yesterday (7 June), the Court of Appeals sided with the city.

Eliminating discrimination is a ‘compelling interest’

In his opinion, Judge Lawrence Winthrop wrote: ‘We have previously found that eliminating discrimination constitutes a compelling interest.’

He added two key components to his ruling. First, he concluded that ‘antidiscrimination ordinances are not aimed at the suppression of speech, but at the elimination of discriminatory conduct’.

For Duka and Koski’s business, Lawrence said if they ‘want to operate their for-profit business as a public accommodation, they cannot discriminate against potential patrons based on sexual orientation’.

Alliance Defending Freedom, representing the two women, stated they intend to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

‘Artists shouldn’t be forced under threat of fines and jail time to create artwork contrary to their core convictions,’ said ADF attorney Jonathan Scruggs.

Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams, however, praised the court’s decision.

‘We will continue to be a city that welcomes everyone, and value each of our residents regardless of who they love.’

As the US Supreme Court did not make any rulings on these issues in their recent decision, it is likely courts across the country will continue to receive cases like this one until a federal ruling or law is made.