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Challenge To Phoenix's Gay Anti-Discrimination Law Heading To Arizona High Court

Arizona’s highest court is set to decide whether a Phoenix law aimed at prohibiting businesses from discriminating against LGBTQ people violates the state’s constitution.

The case centers on two Phoenix business owners who say designing wedding invitations for same sex weddings goes against their religious beliefs. They argue Phoenix’s non-discrimination therefore violates their free speech.

Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski who run Brush & Nib Studio say they have no qualms with serving gay customers, but designing a wedding invitation that condones same sex marriage is against their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The Scottsdale-based conservative advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing them at the Arizona Supreme Court.

“The rules should go the same way for other people,” said ADF attorney Jonathan Scruggs. “The government should not be forcing an LGBT web designer to create a website criticizing same sex marriage for a church, or to force a Muslim printer to design and create pamphlets promoting a synagogue’s religious service.”

The case is preemptive and doesn’t involve an actual incident.

Scruggs says the business has pending requests to make such invitations and the Phoenix law carries steep fines and possible prison time.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled against the two women and upheld Phoenix’s ordinance.

“They want the court system to give them a blank check to refuse service to any same sex couple that is requesting custom wedding products,” said attorney Eric Fraser who is representing Phoenix.

“There is no principled way to distinguish between discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation versus discrimination on other bases such as race or even religion.”

Fraser said the city’s law doesn’t force the business to design messages proclaiming support for gay marriage, only to make the “standard wedding invitations that are otherwise identical to what they would make for a straight couple.”

The court’s ruling will likely affect other cities in Arizona with similar laws like Tucson and Flagstaff.

Oral arguments are scheduled for next year.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story said oral arguments are next month. They are next year.

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Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.