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Phoenix To Pay Damages, Fees After Anti-Discrimination Case Loss

Phoenix will pay nearly $140,000 after losing a case involving the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. 

Nearly a year after the Arizona Supreme Court sided with Brush and Nib Studio, Phoenix will pay damages and attorneys fees up to $136,052.60. Last September, the court ruled the studio’s owners were allowed to refuse to sell their custom wedding invitations to same-sex couples. 

The owners argued the city could not force them to create artwork expressing images that violate their beliefs. Alliance Defending Freedom represented plaintiffs Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski.

“Joanna and Breanna work with all people; they just don't’ promote all messages,”said Jonathan Scruggs, senior counsel. “Like all creative professionals, they should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment. In its treatment of Joanna and Breanna, Phoenix violated these core principles and acted unconstitutionally for numerous years. The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision ensures Phoenix can no longer do that but must follow the Arizona Constitution.”

Scruggs called it a victory for everyone, but Phoenix’s attorney called it a narrow ruling. On Tuesday afternoon, a city spokesperson sent the following email:

“The City of Phoenix has had an anti-discrimination ordinance since 1964. The City of Phoenix’s Anti-Discrimination ordinance is a valid law that remains in effect. It affirms that all people should be treated fairly and equally regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, sex, gender or disability. In Brush & Nib the City’s ordinance was challenged, and the City prevailed in Superior Court and at the Court of Appeals. However, the Arizona Supreme Court reversed the decision with a narrow ruling that applies only to the Brush & Nib Studio. This payment is not a settlement of a disputed claim but rather the payment of nominal damages ($1 each) to the two owners of Brush & Nib Studio, and their business, and awarded attorney fees ordered by the Arizona Supreme Court.”

The City Council will vote on the payment Wednesday.

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.