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Anti-LGBT Discrimination Laws To Be Reviewed in Arizona

January 17th, 2019

Courts in Arizona will hear arguments connected to a 2016 lawsuit that challenges a section of Phoenix’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

Courts in Arizona will hear arguments connected to a 2016 lawsuit that challenges a section of Phoenix’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

In less than a month, courts in Arizona will hear arguments connected to a 2016 lawsuit that challenge a section of Phoenix’s nondiscrimination ordinance that applies to gender identity and sexual orientation. While it remains uncertain how this case will be resolved, it will have a substantial impact on LGBT laws in Arizona and might even create a ripple-effect throughout the country.

How the Case Arose

The case in question concerns two evangelical Christian artists who operate a wedding shop in Phoenix. The artists refused to create work for same-sex couples because they believe that designing invitations or other unique artwork for same-sex couples is equivalent to endorsing same-sex marriage, which would be against their religious beliefs. In response, a same-sex couple initiated a legal action claiming the artists had discriminated against them and lost both in Maricopa County Superior Court as well as in the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Response to the Case

A large number of people in Arizona have sided with the Christian artists. Arizona’s Attorney General even joined with attorneys from seven other states in a brief outline in favor of the artists. This brief argues that customized calligraphy and paintings for weddings are artistic expressions protected by the Arizona Constitution. As a result, this brief argues that Phoenix would be acting illegally if it required the designers to create artwork that they do not want to create. While non-discrimination ordinances are legal, the brief argues, these ordinances should not be used to violate religious beliefs. 26 Republican Arizona state lawmakers as well as many other politicians have also expressed similar concerns on this issue.

The Other Perspective

Numerous entities have also filed briefs in support of the same-sex couple. Eight law school professors and First Amendment scholars have argued that simply because the services provided are artistic does not result in any additional protections. In addition to these entities, the American Civil Liberties Union as well as other Arizona wedding vendors and more than 200 businesses have expressed support for Phoenix’s non-discrimination ordinance in this situation. Instead, these parties argue that wedding invitation designers are not any different from a large number of other workers when it comes to non-discrimination ordinances. This side argues that the refusal of the designers to make same-sex wedding invitations is really motivated by their discriminatory desire not to provide same-sex couples with the same services that are offered to heterosexual couples.

Continue Reading the Universal Life Church’s Blog

After a similar case involving a Colorado bakery in 2018, it is likely that the United States Supreme Court will issue a decision on non-discrimination ordinances, which could come in the form of this case. Each month, the Universal Life Church’s blog strives to document the various developments that occur concerning the rights of LGBT individuals. While a large number of these cases involve a complex area of law, we are dedicated to describing matters in a way that is accessible to all.

(image courtesy of Soren Astrup Jorgensen)

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