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Published On: Tue, Sep 20th, 2016

Arizona artists lose first court battle to refuse gay weddings, judge calls objection ‘absurd’

An Arizona state judge is not convinced that a pair of Christian calligraphers should be exempt from serving same-sex couples, refusing to temporarily suspend enforcement of a Phoenix ordinance against two artists who are challenging it in Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix.

The ordinance forces the studio’s two young female owners, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies; it also forbids them from publicly expressing the Christian beliefs that prevent them from doing so and that require them to create art celebrating only marriages between one man and one woman:

photo Kauhajoki.vaakuna.svg

photo Kauhajoki.vaakuna.svg

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs responded by saying that “Artists shouldn’t be threatened with jail time and other penalties simply for making art that is consistent with their beliefs. That’s why we asked the court to suspend enforcement of the Phoenix ordinance against our clients while their case goes forward. Because the city must allow artists the freedom to make personal decisions about what art they will and will not create, and because the ordinance’s additional requirement that artists stay quiet about their views is clearly unjust and unlawful, we intend to appeal the court’s decision.”

Judge Mullins countered that “the only thing compelled by the ordinance is the sale of goods and services to persons regardless of their sexual orientation.”

“Plaintiffs confuse conduct with expressive speech,” she wrote. “The ordinance only precludes Plaintiffs from refusing to sell products or provide services to same-sex couples and from stating that same-sex couples are unwelcome as customers.”

Mullins didn’t explained why she feels that same-sex wedding invitations do not constitute expressive speech, however artistic they might be in design.

“Any conceivable endorsement of same-sex marriage that might be conveyed would be conveyed by the act of the marriage itself, and not by the creator or printer of the physical invitation itself. It is absurd to think that the fabricator of a wedding invitation for a same-sex couple has endorsed same-sex marriage merely by creating or printing that invitation. Moreover, there is nothing about the creative process itself, such as a flower or vine or the choice of a particular font or color, that conveys any pledge, endorsement, celebration, or other substantive mandated message by Plaintiffs in regard to same-sex marriage.”

The women admitted that they would sell any pre-made non-custom product to anyone; it was only a conflict if they had to print two male names or two female names.

“The printing of names does not hinder in any way Plaintiffs independent exercise of its 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,” Mullins wrote.

Duka and Koski “failed to assert even an incidental burden on the exercise of their religion.”

 

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