Arizona court rules against business that turned away same-sex couple

Arizona court rules against business that turned away same-sex couple
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An Arizona appeals court ruled Thursday that a Phoenix-based calligraphy business cannot refuse service to same-sex couples, upholding the city's anti-discrimination ordinance as constitutional. 

The ruling from the Arizona Court of Appeals cited a Supreme Court decision handed down Monday that sided with a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple.

But that ruling did not address the larger issue of whether businesses can refuse service to same-sex couples based on deeply held religious beliefs, and instead hinged on the argument that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with "religious animus" when it originally ruled against the baker.

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The Supreme Court's decision also reaffirmed protections for gay men and lesbians.

In the Arizona case, the state appeals court acknowledged Brush & Nib Studio's argument that their religious beliefs precluded their ability to provide services to same-sex couples, who sought wedding invitations.

The court ultimately rejected that argument. 

"This conduct, even though it may incidentally impact speech, is not speech," the court wrote. "Further, allowing a vendor who provides goods and services for marriages and weddings to refuse similar services for gay persons would result in 'a community-wide stigma inconsistent with the history and dynamics of civil rights laws that ensure equal access to goods, services, and public accommodations,' " the ruling states.

A trial judge previously denied the business owners' request for a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of Phoenix's anti-discrimination ordinance. That ordinance prohibits businesses from refusing service to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld that decision on Thursday.

The decision on Thursday was celebrated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 

"The Arizona court today rightly ruled that businesses open to the public must be open to all and cannot discriminate against potential customers based on who they are: in this case, members of the LGBT community," Joshua Block, an ACLU senior staff attorney, said in a statement issued shortly after the ruling.