Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Court Refuses To Bar Enforcement of Anti-Discrimination Law Against Wedding Invitation Designers

In Brush & Nib Studio LC v. City of Phoenix, (AZ Super. Ct., Sept. 19, 2016), an Arizona trial court refused to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of Phoenix, Arizona's public accommodation anti-discrimination ordinance against a business that designs custom wedding invitations. Refusing to dismiss on ripeness grounds, the court held that the law does not violate plaintiffs' free speech or free exercise rights. Rejecting plaintiffs' compelled speech argument, the court said in part:
Here, there is nothing about custom wedding invitations made for same-sex couples that is expressive.... The printing of the names of a same-sex couple on an invitation or thank you note does not compel Plaintiffs to convey a government mandated message, such as an endorsement or pledge in favor of same-sex marriages, nor does it convey any message concerning same-sex marriage.... It is absurd to think that the fabricator of a wedding invitation for a same-sex couple has endorsed same-sex marriage merely by creating or printing that invitation. Moreover, there is nothing about the creative process itself, such as a flower or vine or the choice of a particular font or color, that conveys any pledge, endorsement, celebration, or other substantive mandated message by Plaintiffs in regard to same-sex marriage.
Responding to plaintiffs' free exercise challenge, the court said in part:
the sale of wedding invitations free of the names of same-sex couples clearly is not the exercise of religion, and certainly is not a burden on the free exercise of their religion. Nothing about the ordinance has prevented the Plaintiffs from participating in the customs of their religious beliefs or has burdened the practice of their religion in any way.
ADF which represented plaintiffs in the case issued a press release responding to the decision. The press release is accompanied by links to pleadings in the case and to the relevant city ordinances.