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Arizona high court rules business can refuse to make same-sex wedding invites

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Sept. 17 (UPI) — The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that anti-discrimination laws cannot force business owners to provide certain services, such as creating wedding invitations, to same-sex couples.

In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that the owners of Brush & Nib Studios have the right to refuse to produce wedding invitations for same-sex couples, stating the owners cannot be forced to produce something contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Tuesday’s ruling was limited to the ability of Brush & Nib Studios and other businesses to refuse to produce wedding invitations and similar items that could be perceived as celebrating same-sex marriage.

The shop‘s owners, Breanna Koski and Joanna Duka, initially filed the lawsuit in 2016 seeking a legal declaration stating they were not subject to a city of Phoenix ordinance that makes it illegal for businesses that provide services to the public to refuse service based on a person’s legally protected status, including sexual orientation.

Both a trial judge and the Court of Appeals rejected their request, stating the ordinance regulates their conduct and not their speech before. The case was then sent to the state Supreme Court.

“Duka and Koski’s beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some,” the court decision by Justice Andrew Gould read. “But guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced or progressive. They are for everyone.”

The ruling prompted a dissent from Justice Scott Bales, who stated federal and state laws do not permit a business to refuse service to customers based on their identity.

“Our constitutions and laws do not entitle a business to discriminate among customers based on its owners’ disapproval of certain groups, even if that disapproval is based on sincerely held religious beliefs,” he wrote.

Jonathan Scruggs, an attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom who represented the two women, said the decision was a victory for freedom.

“This ruling transcends this particular subject matter. It protects atheist musicians from being forced to perform at Easter services. It protects LGBT web designers from being forced to create websites criticizing same-sex marriage,” Scruggs said.

The Human Rights Campaign criticized the ruling as granting businesses a “license to discriminate.”

“Today’s decision could also open the door for discrimination against other communities protected by the ordinance including religious minorities and women,” HRC Deputy Campaign Director Justin Unga said. “LGBTQ Arizonans pay taxes, own businesses, serve in our military and contribute to our economy and they deserve a government that stands with them.”

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