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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 13, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 28
Under cover of religion: More litigation claiming a religious right to discriminate
Section One
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Under cover of religion: More litigation claiming a religious right to discriminate

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

After two less-than-definitive US Supreme Court cases centering on a supposed First Amendment right to discriminate against LGBT people, new cases claiming a religious right to deny services to LGBT customers are going forward in state courts.

In a case now before the Arizona Supreme Court, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is trying to convince the state's high court that businesses have a constitutional right to refuse to sell their services and products to same-sex couples. The ADF also represented Masterpiece Cakeshop before the US Supreme Court earlier this year.

In a new legal filing with the Arizona high court, ADF attorneys claim that the US Constitution affords individuals the right to speak and also a right to refrain from saying things they do not believe, even when the act of refraining involves denying services to LGBT people because of their sexual orientation.

The ADF is challenging the constitutionality of a Phoenix ordinance that - among other things - prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Their clients, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, refuse to design wedding invitations for same-sex marriages, in violation of the Phoenix ordinance.

According to the ADF, that violates the First Amendment religious rights of the "Christian artists.'The ADF is basing its argument on a 2012 ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court that allows tattoo artists to refuse to ink a message that offends their beliefs.

In Hawaii, however, the state Supreme Court rejected a petition from a local bed-and-breakfast seeking review of a lower court ruling that it had violated the state anti-discrimination statute when it denied a room to a Lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation.

Aloha Bed and Breakfast, whose owner says same-sex relationships "defile our land,'is also represented by the ADF, which again claimed a religious justification for anti-LGBT discrimination. In February, the Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling, and the Hawai'i Supreme Court agreed on July 10.

"In letting the existing decision stand, Hawai'i today joined a long line of states across the country that understand how pernicious and damaging a religious license to discriminate would be,'Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said.

"In fact, since the US Supreme Court's narrow ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop in early June, three state courts - in Arizona, Oregon and now Hawai'i - have either ruled against or refused to review rulings against business owners who have claimed religious justifications to discriminate."

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