‘Joanna and Breanna work with all people; they just don’t promote all messages…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Phoenix cannot force artists to create custom wedding invitations for homosexual couples, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The state Supreme Court’s decision overturns several lower court rulings that protected a city nondiscrimination ordinance that threatened the religious beliefs of Christian artists.
In 2016, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, co-owners of Brush & Nib Studio, sued Phoenix over the ordinance, arguing it violated their First Amendment rights, including the rights to religion and free speech.
If Duka and Koski had been found in violation of the ordinance, the city could have threatened them with up to six months of jail time, $2,500 in fines, and three years of probation.
The state Supreme Court held that the ordinance violated the Constitution and the fundamental principle 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.”
Alliance Defending Freedom’s senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs praised the ruling as a protection door “free speech and religion.”
“The government shouldn’t threaten artists with jail time and fines to force them to create custom artwork, such as wedding invitations, expressing messages that violate their beliefs,” Scruggs said in a statement.
“Joanna and Breanna work with all people; they just don’t promote all messages. They, like all creative professionals, should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.”
Activists slammed the decision and said it “opens the door door other bigoted owners too outright discriminate against LGBTQ people for who we are and who we love,” Brianna Westbrook, vice-chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, wrote on Twitter.
“Today’s decision is not a win, but it is not a loss. It means we will continue to have a debate over equality in this community,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a statement.