A Phoenix ordinance that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination cannot be used to force artists to create custom wedding invitations for same-sex couples, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The Arizona Supreme Court said artists cannot be forced to create custom wedding invitations under a Phoenix law protecting the LGBTQ community. The ruling overturns the 4-3 lower court decision, which sided with the city.
Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of the Brush & Nib Studio, sued Phoenix back in 2016, saying that a city ordinance requiring them to create wedding invitations for a gay couple violated their first amendment rights to free speech. The artists believe marriage should be restricted to couples of one man and one woman.
The justices, however, limited their ruling to custom wedding invitations. An attorney representing Phoenix said the decision did not strike down the city’s laws, and argued it meant “one company” was allowed to refuse to make “one type of product” for LGBTQ couples. While the Phoenix nondiscrimination law has been on the books since 1964, the city council only voted to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected by the law in 2013.
But LGBTQ advocates worry this ruling could lead to similar lawsuits.
“This decision opens the door for other bigoted owners to outright discriminate against LGBTQ people for who we are and who we love,” Brianna Westbrook, vice-chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, tweeted.
Ultimately, the case was focused on what constitutes as free speech. The court majority wrote that while Duka and Koski’s opinions may be deemed offensive to some, free speech is guaranteed even to those “who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive.”
The court’s minority, meanwhile, said that the ruling was troubling because it was about the customers’ core identity. They said the judgment could extend “more broadly to other claims of a ‘right’ by businesses to deny services to disfavored customers.”