No Gay Wedding Invitations, Please

     PHOENIX (CN) — Two wedding-invitation designers sued Phoenix, claiming a city law forces Christian artists to work for gay and lesbian weddings in violation of their religious beliefs.
     Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, co-owners of Brush & Nib Studio, sued Phoenix on May 12 in Maricopa County Court. They specialize in calligraphy and hand-painted wedding invitations, and paintings and prints for other events.
     Duka and Koski say they fear they may be subject to legal action if they refuse to comply with Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance. They are evangelical Christians, and say they “cannot use their God-given talents and imaginations to create art that discredits Him,” and that includes same-sex marriages.
     The city ordinance says service cannot be denied due to sexual orientation. Violations are punishable by up to a $2,500 fine, six months in jail and three years probation for each day of violation. It also prevents businesses from displaying information about why they will refuse such service.
     “Joanna and Breanna believe Jesus commanded Christians to love their neighbors no matter who they are, what they believe, or what they do,” the complaint states. “To love their customers, Joanna and Breanna believe they must be upfront and honest with their customers and respectful toward their customers and their customers’ time.”
     They say in the 86-page lawsuit that they do not object to selling artwork to customers of any background, except for same-sex marriages, because it violates their religious beliefs.
     “Artists shouldn’t be threatened with jail for disagreeing with the government,” their attorney Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement.
     “The government must allow artists the freedom to make personal decisions about what art they will create and what art they won’t create. Just because an artist creates expression that communicates one viewpoint doesn’t mean she is required to express all viewpoints. It’s unjust, unnecessary, and unlawful to force an artist to create against her will and intimidate her into silence,” Tedesco said.
     The City Council adopted the anti-discrimination ordinance in 2013 to stop discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents by privately owned businesses.
     Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said the city will defend the law.
     “The Phoenix non-discrimination ordinance protects fundamental civil rights for everyone and we will defend it aggressively,” Stanton said in a statement. He voted for the ordinance.
     The women say they “face an imminent and impossible choice,” as Phoenix has “already investigated another business for declining to promote a same-sex wedding ceremony for religious reasons.”
     They ask the court to enjoin enforcement of the ordinance.
     “No matter how much others may dislike Joanna and Breanna’s beliefs about marriage, the government should neither invade the artist’s ‘freedom of mind’ to compel art nor hinder the artist’s freedom of speech to silence expression about art,” they say in the lawsuit lawsuit claims.
     Attorney Tedesco is with the Alliance Defending Freedom, in Scottsdale.

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