Arizona SC says wedding business owners can't be forced to serve same-sex customers as it violates their religious beliefs

Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski of the Brush & Nib Studio had filed a lawsuit in 2016 challenging Phoenix's nondiscrimination ordinance


                            Arizona SC says wedding business owners can't be forced to serve same-sex customers as it violates their religious beliefs
(Getty Images)

The Arizona Supreme Court, in a 4-3 opinion on Monday, ruled that a small business in Phoenix, Brush & Nib Studio, which makes wedding invitations, can refuse its service to LGBTQ couples. The court stated that a 2013 Phoenix law that includes "sexual orientation, gender identity or expression" in the city's nondiscrimination ordinance violated the freedom of speech and religious beliefs of two business owners.

The business owners, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, had filed a lawsuit in 2016 in an attempt to challenge the city ordinance, fearing that they would be imprisoned if they refused to create custom wedding invitations that "celebrate same-sex marriage," CNN reported.

The court's decision stated that although the city ordinance bars public accommodations from discriminating against people of protected status (including sexual orientation), the state or federal civil rights accommodation statutes, however, do not list "sexual orientation as a legally protected status."

Justice Andrew Gould, during the ruling, wrote: "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. 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," Gould added.

Brush & Nib Studio, in the case, was represented by Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for propagating an "anti-LGBT ideology."

Designers Duka and Koski had filed a lawsuit in May 2016, however, they lost their case in the Maricopa County Superior Court in 2017 and the Arizona Court of Appeals in 2018. The new state SC ruling, however, applies only to this business and does not strike down the city's law.

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