By Will Hall, Message Executive Editor
PHOENIX (LBM) — The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Christian friends who serve homosexuals among the clientele of their calligraphy and hand-painting business, but ran afoul of a city ordinance by refusing to honor same-sex weddings with their artwork.
State law prohibits businesses from discriminating, but does not include homosexuality as a protected class. However, Phoenix is one of four Arizona cities that passed ordinances that offer special rights regarding sexual orientation and do not allow exceptions for religious convictions with regard to providing services for same-sex weddings.
Consequently, the owners of the Brush and Nib Studio, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, faced fines up to $2,500 and six months in jail for each day they refused to comply with the ordinance with regard to using their talents to create wedding invitations for same-sex couples.
The Arizona Supreme Court voted 4-3 that the Phoenix measure was coercive, stating in the majority opinion that “an individual has autonomy over his or her speech and thus may not be forced to speak a message he or she does not wish to say.” The court cited the precedent of the federal First Amendment in making a narrow the application of its ruling, limited to only the creation of custom wedding invitations by Duka and Koski. Consequently, other Christian business owners will need to file separate lawsuits if they feel municipal ordinances infringe upon their religious beliefs regarding same-sex weddings.
The city is considering a potential appeal, with the mayor describing the religious beliefs of Duka and Koski as “hate.”