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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 23, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 39
Arizona court turns down challenge to Phoenix anti-discrimination ordinance
Section One
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Arizona court turns down challenge to Phoenix anti-discrimination ordinance

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

An Arizona court turned down a so-called 'pre-enforcement challenge' to a Phoenix ordinance barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on September 19.

Brush & Nib, a small calligraphy company, had sued the city of Phoenix, hoping for a court order preventing enforcement of the ordinance on the grounds that the religious beliefs of the two owners prevented them from producing hand-drawn wedding invitations for same-sex couples.

The company was represented by the well-known anti-LGBT group the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which argued that the Phoenix law 'forces the studio's two young female owners to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies' and 'forbids the studio, Brush & Nib, and its proprietors from publicly expressing their Christian belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or explaining why they hold to that time-honored view.'

The type of suit filed by ADF is called a 'pre-enforcement challenge' because no one has even asked Brush & Nib to create invitations for a same-sex wedding. The point of the lawsuit is simply to get a court order overturning the law.

According to the website Joe My God, Brush & Nib 'appears to have no physical address' and 'their social media presence goes back only a few months,' which led to speculation that the company was created for the express purpose of challenging the Phoenix anti-discrimination ordinance.

If that was the strategy, it failed miserably. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Karen A. Mullins dismissed ADF's motion for an injunction blocking enforcement of the law.

'Plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on the merits given that the Phoenix ordinance does not violate Plaintiffs' right to free speech and does not impose a substantial burden on their exercise of religion,' she wrote.

'The possibility of irreparable injury is quite small, at best, given that Plaintiffs are free to express their beliefs on their business website and may practice their religious beliefs without substantial burden. The balance of hardships favors Defendant City, given the government's interest in allowing its citizens to enjoy public accommodations free of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Finally, the public policy underlying anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation runs contrary to the requested injunction. Thus, the Court declines to grant Plaintiffs the preliminary injunction requested in this case.'

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