The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that Brush & Nib Studio in Phoenix must serve gay couples in response to a lawsuit brought by Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, the studio’s owners, who had not been asked to provide services by any gay couples, but were trying to preemptively assert their right not to do so.
The Phoenix Business Journal reports: “Filed in 2016, the suit alleged that the non-discrimination order would force them to provide services would violate their freedoms of speech and conflict with their belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. Duka and Koski had attempted to override a city ordinance that protects LGBT people from discrimination. Filed in 2016, the suit alleged that the non-discrimination order would force them to provide services would violate their freedoms of speech and conflict with their belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the couple by anti-LGBT litigation group Alliance Defending Freedom.
The court used this week’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision to reject the studio’s argument.
Wrote NCLR: “This week’s Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop addressed a unique situation specific to the facts in that case. It did not dilute anti-LGBTQ discrimination protections and in fact reaffirmed their importance. With regard to race, sex, sexual orientation or any other protected trait, a business can decide what products it sells—but not to whom. Today’s Arizona appeals court decision correctly relied upon Masterpiece Cakeshop to ensure that businesses understand that they cannot turn people away from the products or services they provide because of who they are or take actions equivalent to hanging a ‘no gays allowed’ sign in the window.”
Phoenix has had a non-discrimination order since 1964 and in 2013, the city council expanded it to protect against sexual orientation and gender identity bias.
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The appeals court upheld an order from 2017.
In October 2017, Judge Karen Mullins rejected all of their arguments, confirming that the Phoenix ordinance does not violate Arizona’s free speech and free exercise of religion laws. Mullins also denied a request to prevent the city from enforcing the ordinance.
In her written order, Mullins said the city can prohibit Brush & Nib from refusing to serve, or advertising that they intend to refuse custom to gay couples.
“The government may permissibly regulate the sale of goods and services by businesses that sell those goods and services to the general public. This is true even if the goods and services at issue involve expression or artistic creativity,” wrote Mullins.
She added that Duka and Koski can publish their religious opinions about marriage so long as they don’t “state or imply that same-sex couples are unwelcome as customers.
Phoenix mayor Thelda Williams hailed Thursday’s ruling in a statement: “Five years ago, Phoenix became the first Arizona city to enact a law to ensure equal treatment for our LGBT community, and I’m proud that the Court of Appeals upheld that ordinance.”