PHOENIX - The Arizona Supreme Court says the free speech rights of two Christian artists who make wedding invitations were violated by Phoenix's anti-discrimination ordinance that makes it illegal for businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples for religious reasons.
The 4-3 decision on Monday reverses lower-court rulings that were favorable to the city.
With these fundamental principles in mind, today we hold that the City of Phoenix (the “City”) cannot apply its Human Relations Ordinance (the “Ordinance”) to force Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studios, LC (“Brush & Nib”), to create custom wedding invitations celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs. Duka, Koski, and Brush & Nib (“Plaintiffs”) have the right to refuse to express such messages under article 2, section 6 of the Arizona Constitution, as well as Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act (“FERA”), A.R.S. § 41-1493.01.
The artists believe a marriage should be between only a man and woman.
"Our Christian beliefs inspire and guide our lives, they're why we love to serve everyone, and thye're also why we cannot create custom artwork expressing certain messages," said Breanna Koski wtih Brush & Nib.
"Everyone should be free to peacefully live and work according to their beliefs without fear of unjust punishment," said Joanna Duka.
The Supreme Court says its ruling is limited to only the creation of custom wedding invitations by Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski and isn't a blanket exemption from the ordinance for all their business operations.
The court says the city can't force the two artists to make same-sex wedding invitations in violation of the religious beliefs by telling them what they can and can't say. The city of Phoenix responded to the ruling saying it is a narrow one and only applies to Brush & Nib. “The city of Phoenix’s nondiscrimination ordinance still stands.”
"We are in the middle of a robust debate on equality and one I think will continue, but the city of Phoenix is standing in support of equality and our ordinance still stands," said Mayor Kate Gallego.
Nate Rhoton, executive director of LGBTQ youth support group One-n-Ten, believes this could pave the way for more litigation down the line
"Anytime throughout history that we've advanced protections for marginalized communities, we have seen similar situations and results," said Rhoton. "Ultimately, as the mayor said today, the arc swings towards equality, and I hope in this case, we will see the same."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.