The Arizona Supreme Court Wednesday heard oral argument in Brush & Nib LLC v. City of Phoenix, a case concerning whether to allow a calligraphy and stationery studio an exemption from the City of Phoenix’s long-standing nondiscrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
The case was originally filed by the anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom and sought to allow the business, called Brush & Nib – as well as other business owners – to preemptively deny service to LGBTQ people under the guise of religion.
“The Arizona Supreme Court has the opportunity to affirm loudly and clearly: discrimination has no place in any form,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “A ruling that undermines Phoenix’s municipal nondiscrimination ordinance would be a tremendous blow to LGBTQ Arizonans and would send a message that one of America’s biggest cities does not welcome LGBTQ people, simply because of who they are. All LGBTQ people should be able to access the same services as everyone else, without sweeping exemptions under the thinly veiled guise of religion.”
“This case is not about stationery or calligraphy and never has been. This is about fairness and equality,” said Angela Hughey, President and Co-Founder of ONE Community. “Businesses open to the public must be open for business to everyone on the same terms.”
Earlier this year, over 250 businesses filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the City of Phoenix stating that treating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people fairly and serving them equally is important for maximizing productivity and ensuring a thriving economy, and that not doing so imposes significant human and financial costs. Signers include healthcare advocates, artists and creative services, churches, women’s organizations, and more.
“Freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights. But that freedom does not give any of us the right to harm other people, to impose our beliefs on others, or to discriminate,” said Reverend Troy Mendez of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Phoenix. “We are all God’s children and we should treat others as we want to be treated.”
The Maricopa County Superior Court previously ruled against Brush & Nib’s attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and a three-judge panel at the Arizona Court of Appeals unanimously upheld that ruling this summer, writing that extraordinary exemptions to nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation would constitute a ‘grave and continuing harm.” A ruling may now be issued by the Arizona Supreme Court at any point.