Gay wedding invitation
Wedding vendors in Phoenix can now legally refuse to create wedding invitations like this one if they object to same-sex marriage.

Arizona’s highest court has sided with two Phoenix artists who refused to design custom gay wedding invitations on the basis that it violates their faith.

The city of Phoenix has an anti-discrimination ordinance that makes it illegal to refuse service to same-sex couples. But Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, the owners of Brush & Nib Studio, did not want to support same-sex weddings in any fashion – insisting that even creating invitations was crossing a line. So they filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, claiming the ordinance violated their belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

The case, which made its way all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court, began in 2016. The court just ruled 4-3 in their favor.

Majority Rule

Writing for the majority in Brush & Nib v. City of Phoenix, Justice Andrew Gould concluded that in keeping with Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act, the city of Phoenix couldn’t force the Christian artists to create an invitation for a gay wedding that violated “their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Brush & Nib studio owners Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski
Brush & Nib owners Joanna Duka (Left) and Breanna Koski (Right)

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit law firm, represented Brush & Nib. “Artists shouldn’t be forced to create artwork contrary to their core convictions, and certainly not under threat of criminal fines and jail time,” stated ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “Breanna and Joanna are happy to design custom art for all people; they simply object to being forced to pour their heart, soul, imagination, and talent into creating messages that violate their conscience.”

Ultimately, the court agreed. Justice Gould wrote in his opinion:

“Duka and Koski’s beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some. But the 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.”

Liberty v. Equality

The dissenting justices examined the tension between personal liberty and equality for all. Ultimately, they decided that equality should rule, arguing that “vendors can freely choose which products or services they offer but they cannot refuse to sell them to groups of customers whom they disfavor.”

The dissent drew parallels between other artistic business endeavors, like photography. A photographer has the choice of whether or not to take children’s portraits. But once they decide to photograph children they cannot then refuse to photograph mixed-race children.

They also pointed out that legalizing one form of discrimination may only encourage more bigotry, writing: “today’s decision is also deeply troubling because its reasoning cannot be limited to discrimination related to same-sex marriage or based on the beliefs of any one religion, but instead extends more broadly to other claims of a ‘right’ by businesses to deny services to disfavored customers.”

Cakes and Christianity

This isn’t the first time Christian wedding vendors have made national headlines for refusing to serve same-sex couples.

You may remember the Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding back in 2012. That baker, Jack Phillips, claimed baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple violated his fundamental religious beliefs. He argued each cake he created was a piece of artwork — and by extension, an act of free speech protected by the law, something no government could mess with. The Supreme Court eventually agreed with him. That ruling seems to have paved the way for florists, calligraphers and wedding planners to do the same. And so here we are.

Which side do you fall on? Should the law compel vendors to provide their services in a non-discriminatory manner? Should an open business be open to all?

Or is this ruling a win, as Joanna Duka believes, that promotes personal liberty for everyone? Should artists and merchants be free to withhold their services on the basis of religion? And can an artist ever truly separate their art from their faith?

36 comments

  1. Chris says:

    Sincerely held religious beliefs? So how many second or third marriages have they done design work for? None, I should hope, based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” After all, the religion they claim to follow doesn’t allow divorce. What about fornicators? Again, forbidden. If they’re doing business for them but not for gay people it’s just blatant discrimination and has nothing to do with religion.

    1. ET says:

      👍right on target Chris!

    2. JT says:

      “the religion they claim to follow doesn’t allow divorce”: What Christian religious denomination do they belong to? The article doesn’t mention it, and I didn’t find anything after an abbreviated search.

      Although religions in general disapprove of the dissolution of marriage (though some, including Judaism and Islam, acknowledge the importance of allowing for divorce), the only Christian denomination that does not perform divorces, does not recognize them (even if they were legally obtained), and considers remarriage to be adulterous is Roman Catholicism.

      So, if they’re not Catholics, your statement is factually incorrect.

      1. The Doctor says:

        I suspect the point Chris is trying to make is that the same changes to christianity that have brought about the demonification of homosexuality in the faith is no different then those that have allowed divorce. Basically they are more then likely more false christians who dont actually understand the history nor true form of an ancient faith that has been altered and rewritten many times to suit those in charge to more easily manipulate the populace.

        A true christian would no more discriminate against another person then they would lift a hand in violence even to defend themselves.This is well established by theologians and bibilical scholars of the secular variety. Christianity at its roots is basically a 100% pacifistic accept all and do no harm to any belief system. That is the main difference between it and the Judaic faith it evolved from. Unlike Judaism that is about blood ties and sacrificial offerings, Christianity was originally the all are welcome and we dont need to slaughter animals or people anymore faith.

        The saddest thing about the corruption of the way of life that a man named Jesus may have helped to bring about is that a philosophy about peace ended up a means to motivate people into violence and bigotry.

    3. Quelyn Purdie, MAPCC, Ordained Interfaith Minister says:

      I agree – 1. the article never mentions WHAT the artists’ “sincerely held religious beliefs” are (I thought “Christian” meant a follower of Christ(?!!) 2. the article does mention that the artists are Christian, so i suspect they are familiar with 3. Paul’s letters, aka the epistles in particularly 4. Romans 15:7-13 where he exhorts the practice of accepting one another as Christ did….regardless of group or individual identity.
      See it’s easier to argue “freedom of speech” vs “sincerely held religious beliefs” because, in my assessment, the discourse of our court system has not and does not include the requirement of RELIGIOUS defense. We’re fantastic at LEGAL defense but I think, going forward, we need to be seriously considering religious defense by attorneys and public at large as a litigation requirement in cases such as Brush & Nib…who identify as Christians.

  2. atatakaidanjp says:

    Oh, here we go with the “my personal rights as a Christian because the Bible says it is so” argument. No, people, it doesn’t mention ANYTHING about it, at least in KJV1611. Later versions ONLY mention it once in 1Cor6:9-10 about “those who shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    Check the historicity, folks!

  3. Rev. Brien says:

    Hey, guess what? There are plenty of businesses that will be happy to take your money. Why not just do business with them? In the grand scheme of things, money equals business, no money equals no business. You cannot force someone to believe as you do. What you can do is spend your money elsewhere.

    1. Carra Earl says:

      Absolutely. I would not want a baker who feels that strongly about it to make my wedding cake or design my invitations. I would be afraid to trust them to make something that important. Go somewhere else! C J

    2. Minister Tina says:

      I completely agree, Rev… and that was my first thought after reading the cake business owners case in Colorado. You don’t want my business? Fine – I and many like-minded individuals will go elsewhere!

  4. Stephanie Willey says:

    Speaking from my personal point of view and hypothetically, if a business operator does not want my business, I’ fine with that. But I’d like to know this before I walk into their shop. Like a sign on the front door, and just one line in their advertising, “We do not serve the (insert your prejudice here) community”, and upon seeing that, I will not bother that business owner with anything. I’ll simply walk done the street to the business that proudly exclaims their inclusive policies. After all, there are plenty of business’s right in my town that I have chosen to withhold my business for any number of reasons, and this is my right as a savvy consumer. In the long run, the free market forces will will do its thing and businesses that practice inclusion will gain market share, customer base, and gross receipts while those who discriminate will shrink into their tiny niche markets and most likely fail.

  5. Ben says:

    Let’s Stop Pretending Christianity Is Even “Christian” Anymore.

    1. The Doctor says:

      It hasnt been for about 1700 years. Though some sects do keep closer then others, Those that practice nonviolence like the quakers are far closer to what a man called Jesus was hoping to inspire then the vast majority of splinter faiths so much more deluded in their idea of what the faith is.

    2. Amy Varela says:

      The Christians went to preach to the heathens and ended up murdering them instead, following the God of the Old Testament’s example of killing everyone who doesn’t worship him.
      So much for “love thy neighbor” and “free will”. Christianity is no more a religion of peace and love than is Islam.
      Either they have never behaved in a Christlike way or they have always behaved in a Christlike way. Nobody can prove what Jesus actually said or if he even existed, so perhaps the bigoted, racist morons are the ones who have Christianity correct and it’s just a crap religion.
      #sorrynotsorry

      1. The Doctor says:

        Please do understand I am not one who holds up a man called Jesus as a Christ or savior. What I am pointing out is that the old testament is not the Bible. Nor is it in any way related to actual christianity. The fact a great many false christians quote the OT and seem to not even grasp the passing of the old covenant and coming of the new basically meant all the old rules etc were made obsolete is a point of contention I frequently bring up to remind both those calling themselves christians, and those being critical of that faith.

        There is ample supporting evidence that the man Jesus did exist. I am in no way saying nor suggesting that by him having been a real figure of history, any of the supernatural events subscribed to him actually happened. However due to several different roman documents found dating to that era there is reason to think there was a jewish man who challenged both the jewish and roman political figures of the day and on one occasion physically assaulted a roman temple guard.

        What we can also do is look at the actual actions documented by the romans of the early christians, who refused to fight even to defend themselves, practiced a very simple lifestyle free from materialism, and basically took all the nice stuff from the OT while tossing out all the bloody stuff. Which is basically what the whole new covenant replacing the old is all about.

  6. Ed says:

    First and foremost, if you’re not going to look at this: https://www.louderwithcrowder.com/hidden-camera-gay-wedding-cake-at-muslim-bakery/ then you have no business talking about any Christian denomination not wanting to do anything for gays.

    There are a lot of verses in the Bible that specifically condemn homosexual activity. So, don’t shoot the messenger. These people believe what the bible tells them.

    And please, tell me how refusing to bake a cake, or any of these other “evils” is somehow worse then Muslim nations that will =publicly execute people who are homosexual:” https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-06-13/how-muslim-countries-treat-homosexuals

    I’m not sure if it’s disturbing, or hilarious, that liberals are for Muslims and Homosexuals, when Muslim nations will willingly execute the other group.

    1. Michael Brooke says:

      Ed, Jesus’ words in Luke 16:18 seem pretty plain regarding divorce and remarriage: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.”

      I think the problem is with the hypocrisy of spotlighting the “sin” of same sex relationships while ignoring the “sins” of hetero people, such as having multiple divorces and re-marriages, many of which divorces were not caused by an abusive relationship. When was the last time you heard about a court case involving a baker (or whomever) refusing to serve a divorced and remarried couple?? Doesn’t seem to happen, and the hypocrisy is the real problem here. Is chronic adultery somehow “better” than same sex fidelity? Sure does seem like it for an awful lot of us. As hetero Christians we sit in our pews on Sunday right next to other sinners just like us, many of whom are committing adultery every day after divorcing and remarrying (assuming you believe that Jesus meant what he said), and think nothing of it. But many of us would be very consciously offended if a same sex couple joined us in church on Sunday — wouldn’t we? I don’t even think the hypocrisy is intentional for most of us, but rather a product of our lifelong exposure to the spotlighting and magnification of homosexuality as a very special “sin” worthy of our focused, communal and very public disdain.

      On the surface I tend to think, why not just allow the baker to refuse service to someone who he or she disagrees with or dislikes? Just find another baker who is ok with your same-sex marriage relationship or your ethnic heritage or your religion or whatever it is about you that offends baker who refused to serve you. Yet intolerance and discrimination can become much more serious and systemic if allowed to flourish, as was the case not so long ago in the Jim Crow South. “No Coloreds” signs in restaurants, motels, and other businessess could easily be replaced with “No Muslims” or “No Adulterers” or “No Mormons, Catholics, Buddhists” etc. I don’t like your religiion and/or lifestyle and/or whatever, so I’m not going to serve you….. and by the way, I don’t think anyone else in our nice little town will either……………

    2. Richard Kopcho says:

      It’s painfully obvious that a portion of “religious” people of different faiths- Christian, Muslim, Hindu whatever- pick and choose religious text to justify their bigotry, hatred, loathing and fears. Lumping them all together under summary labels, like Christians, Muslims and Liberals, is inaccurate and intellectually lazy, and very easy. It is difficult and demanding to recognize some people are hateful jerks while most (in my experience) are not. Add to that when people congregate into groups and mobs they can mutate into an entirely new level of madness and anger.

  7. Alicia says:

    Your right to do something shouldn’t over-ride another’s right to not do something they don’t believe in. There are many designers, bakers, venues, tailors, beauty salons, etc. that would love your business, so move on to one of them. Don’t try to force your beliefs on others.

    The only reason I would find to sue someone over something as ridiculous as this would be if they made nasty comments and called me rude names instead of just saying, “I’m sorry, it’s against all I believe in. But, here are some names of others who can help you.”

  8. Amber Castleman says:

    The law is the law and a business is a business it is their job to do what clients pay them to do and it is the courts job to uphold the law regardless of religious beliefs I have a lesbian sister and a gay cousin I will not set foot in a facility that does not respect same sex marriages if I was owner of that shop those two would be fired on the spot I welcome same sex marriages.

    1. Preacher Man says:

      In most states, the law allows a proprietor the right to turn any potential customer away for any reason.

      1. Peter M (@zobva) says:

        Not really. Would Arizona allow the two white printers to refuse to design wedding invitations for a couple solely because they were black, claiming it was against their religion? This way of thinking was litigated and put to rest by federal law many decades ago.
        This is precisely why we need strong Federal anti-discrimination laws that extend to protecting LGBTQ citizens as well.

        1. Preacher Man says:

          Note the prepositional phrase…I said in MOST states, not EVERY state.

  9. LN says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t want someone who disparages my relationship to be in any way involved with it. There are such a large number of businesses who would have been only too glad to take the couple’s money. They can vote with their wallets and tell their friends to avoid that business. They could even put up a yelp review warning others that this business refuses to create LGBTQIA+ -themed designs.

    Artists should be free to work according to their inner/higher guidance as they interpret it, as long as they are within the realm of reasonable and not promoting criminal activity.

    1. Rev Sandy says:

      we need to think of one thing who will the haters go after nest. to give you a example this type of hate has spread over into the medical community. transgender people can not get even the most basic medical care here in Oklahoma with out being singled out for punishment. One lady I know was taken to a local hospital with a server urinary tract infection. She was isolated from others and made fun of by the staff for a week. She was shamed at every tern and was told she was being fraudulent . She now needs surgery for a life threating condition and can not get it. So the argument about bath rooms/ cakes ect will go on to other areas. Is it right to with hold medical care or any thing? why do we all talk and then do nothing until there is a body count? We should ask ourselves what would Jesus do?

  10. john shephard says:

    There’s no hate here except in the way the ULC titled and framed the article. But everyone knows that, sees through their predictable hateful presentation, and understands the facts of the case anyway. Forgive the liberal – they know not what they do – and go on in peace with your life’s purpose of love.

  11. Preacher Man says:

    The distance between church and state is the the only true measurement of freedom. Every time one of these cases ends up in a court of law, that distance narrows. If this trend continues, government will be in control of all religious activity.

  12. Baba Barkley says:

    Art has power to focus energy. A relationship should be blessed by artists that are are inspired by the job. Forcing an artist who is against the relationship to create will result in artwork that curses the relationship.

    Printing is another matter. If you have artwork, the printer should not refuse service because of a prejudice. Many of the finest international wedding dress designers are gay. Printing does not need belief, it needs a printing press.

  13. Jackie says:

    What happened to a business having the right to refuse service to whom ever they choose? It’s theirs after all. They created it. They put their time and money into it. If a customer doesn’t like a business just move on. Stop the childish behavior of running to court every time someone does not agree with you. If a loud mouthed anti religion anti gay person went to an openly gay business I bet they would be shown the door with many a rude remark but, without one drop of news coverage and no lawsuit.

    1. Peter M (@zobva) says:

      False equivalency. Nobody said the same-sex couple whose invitations were refused were “loud-mouthed anti-religion.” Sure, rude disruptive people of any persuasion would be shown the door. That has absolutely nothing to do with people being refused service simply because of who they are .

  14. Robert Messmer says:

    Quote: “They also pointed out that legalizing one form of discrimination may only encourage more bigotry, writing: “today’s decision is also deeply troubling because its reasoning cannot be limited to discrimination related to same-sex marriage or based on the beliefs of any one religion, but instead extends more broadly to other claims of a ‘right’ by businesses to deny services to disfavored customers.”
    Do you think they are referring to restaurants, bars, and other businesses refusing service to President Trump’s supporters – and being backed up by courts? We used to allow people to associate with those they wished to WITHOUT the force of government being used to compel people to support views they disagree with. How about a court ruling forcing Planned Parenthood to subscribe to Catholic teachings? After all Planned Parenthood is exhibiting bigotry by discriminating against the teaching that life is precious and should not be wantonly taken.

  15. Secretary3rd says:

    That is one way to lose business. It is almost like me not marrying two people because that they have different ancestors one is Germany and one is Polish that will not do.
    Silly!

  16. Ace Lightning says:

    If I were a baker, or if I ran a “wedding planning service”, or sold wedding gowns, or had a catering business, I’d go out of my way to include in all my advertising a statement like “I will do my best work for ANY couple who desires my services. No matter your race, ethnicity, religious background, sexual preferences, biological gender, ability level, or any other factor: I WILL MAKE SURE YOU CAN CELEBRATE YOUR LOVE IN THE WAY YOU WANT TO. “

  17. Onyeocha Nnadiozi ( Samidee Onyx / Samuel Ubani) says:

    Marriage is an individual choice value, based on acceptance, belief, attitude and Self concept of what people understand and know sex is. The point here is that the wedding vendor may design the business Concepts according to how much and how they want to officiate such weddings

  18. Duckin Acup says:

    Another case of one christian in position of authority permitting another christian to force their faith on others.

  19. Onyeocha Nnadiozi ( Samidee Onyx / Samuel Ubani) says:

    This is important and in an individual choice value of what acceptance, belief, attitude, and what thier self concept is, and what people view them and accept them if a wedding vendor wants to accept or officiate weddings that values on how they define their business concept , then they may accepts such wedding based on what the society want and what thier wedding officiation concept it for the couples.

  20. Angel says:

    This is a tough one. It is their constitutional right to believe as they wish and to refuse service to anyone for any reason. So, I agree with the decision of the court.However, I also believe that it is VERY bad business practice to conduct your business in this manner. Luckily, for the couple, this area is HUGE and will have no problems finding somebody who will not only provide them this service but will also be happy to do so! Win-win!

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