Judge Tells Phoenix Wedding Invitation Designers They Can’t Turn Away Gay Couples

Mayor Greg Stanton called the ruling "a complete victory for the city of Phoenix."

A superior court judge has ruled against calligraphers in Phoenix who claim they have the right to discriminate against same-sex couples.

No gay people have actually asked Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, the Christian co-owners of Brush & Nib, to make their wedding invitations. But the pair decided to proactively sue the city, with the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom providing legal counsel. The women insist if they had to make invites for a same-sex ceremony, it would conflict with their religious beliefs and violate their freedoms of speech and religion.

In 2016, Judge Karen Mullins rejected their request to block enforcement of Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance, which was expanded in 2013 to include bias against sexual discrimination and gender identity. Mullins said they “failed to assert even an incidental burden on the exercise of their religion.”

Last week, Mullins reinforced that ruling, specifying that while they’re free to express their religious views about marriage, Duka and Koski can’t advertise that same-sex couples are unwelcome as customers at Brush & Nib. “The printing of same-sex persons names on wedding invitations does not hinder in any way plaintiffs’ independent exercise of [their] religious belief by attending the church of their choice, engaging in religious activities or functions, and expressing their beliefs on their business website and literature or in their personal lives,” she wrote.

Mayor Greg Stanton called the judge’s order “a complete victory for the city of Phoenix,” adding, “Today was a victory for civil rights and when there’s a victory for civil rights, it’s not just a victory for the LGBT community, it’s a victory for everyone.”

Alliance Defending Freedom, which is also representing Masterpiece Bakery’s Jack Phillips in his Supreme Court case, has promised to appeal.

“People shouldn’t be forced to promote views that they disagree with,” ADF Attorney Jonathan Scruggs, told AZCentral.

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