Arizona Supreme Court Rules religion over discrimination

Category:  Opinions
Friday, September 27th, 2019 at 11:03 AM

The Arizona Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of two Phoenix artists, stating they did not have to make wedding invitations for a same-sex couple. The city of Phoenix has an ordinance making it illegal to discriminate against someone for their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. However, in Arizona and in federal civil rights laws, there is no language preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation, thus making it legal for the court ruling in favor of the designers.

The court also claimed that forcing them to produce art for the couple would be a violation of freedom of religion and speech.
The owners, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, are both Christians who want to run their business according to their values. In all fairness, it is a private business, and they do have a right to run it however they want and refuse service to anybody. It does, however, seem incredibly unwise as a business practice.

The business, Brush and Nib Studio, has a description on the website that states they are supposed to, “specialize in creating custom hand-painted and hand-lettered wedding invitations, invitation suites, envelopes, save the dates, programs, menus, table numbers, place cards, wedding decor, and more.” Weddings are their thing, yet they are still refusing to help a whole group of people based on their religion, and in turn, missing out on a huge client base and a lot of money.

Moving on to more moral reasons, it is, at the end of the day, discrimination. If the designers refused to serve almost any other group of people they wouldn’t be having this debate on whether religion comes before discrimination. It would be seen as abject and wrong. If Duka and Koski refused to serve Muslims because they didn’t have the same beliefs, it would not be a question as to whether the designers’ freedom of religion was being violated, it would be clear that a bigger issue was at hand.

Article two, section 36 of the Arizona State Constitution states: “this state shall not grant preferential treatment to or discriminate against any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.” Even if it didn’t, they could still reference the first amendment in the U.S. Constitution that says people have a right to freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition. However, because the state and federal laws don’t include sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA+ community is not protected from discrimination, but morally, they should be.

In this situation, social media could be, and historically has been, used as a tool to start entire movements toward progression. Rallying people nationally and internationally could bring further awareness to the fact that the U.S. law is not morally correct. It could start a grassroots movement, isolating even more of their potential clients than their outdated practices already do.

There is an upside to all of this. According to CNN, attorney Jonathan Scruggs, who represented the designers, said: “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.” This idea that Scruggs brings to the table makes sense. A black person should have the right to deny service to a Neo-Nazi. This logic could potentially help progressive movements in the future, but that doesn’t change the way things are now.

It’s safe to say there’s something incredibly wrong with the Arizona court system. They are blatantly allowing discrimination based on a tiny technicality.

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