In a major victory for religious freedom, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a small Christian-owned business could refuse to produce wedding invitations for homosexual couples.
The state’s high court ruled in a 4-3 opinion, that Brush & Nib Studio had both a “free speech” and “free exercise” right to disobey a Phoenix anti-discrimination law.
Passed in 2013, the ordinance prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability. It applies to businesses offering services to the general public.
Those who refuse to comply with the ordinance face such criminal penalties as six months in jail and $2,500 in fines for each day that Phoenix decided they were not in compliance.
In May 2016, Brush & Nib and its owners (Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski) filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court claiming the law violated their artistic and religious freedom.
The lawsuit asked the Arizona court to give Joanna, Breanna, and Brush & Nib the freedom to create artwork consistent with their artistic and religious beliefs and to explain these beliefs to others.
On Monday, the Arizona Supreme Court agreed.
“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,” wrote Justice Andrew Gould for the majority.
“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,” the court ruled.
The highly successful legal team of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which recently scored a similar victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2018, represented Brush & Nib. ADF defended Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012. The nation’s high court ruled in Phillips’ favor.
ADF said on its website, “This is a HUGE WIN for religious freedom and freedom of speech.”