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Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix

Case Seeking Religious Exemption from LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Laws

Key Date: September 16, 2019
Status: Limited Ruling in Favor of Business Seeking Anti-LGBTQ Exemption
Legal Team: Alliance Defending Freedom
Type: Public Accommodations Discrimination

Brush and Nib Case Overview:

Brush & Nib v. City of Phoenix concerns business owners in Arizona who seek to preemptively deny service to LGBTQ people, seeking a religious exemption to a nondiscrimination law in Phoenix prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The business, a calligraphy and stationery studio, is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that works aggressively to restrict and roll back non-discrimination protections and basic equality for LGBTQ Americans.

Latest in the Case:

On September 16, 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court court issued a limited ruling allowing Brush & Nib to potentially deny creation of custom wedding invitations to LGBTQ people. Phoenix’ LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance, as well as others in Arizona, will continue to remain in place. The ruling does not indicate that these ordinances don’t still apply in other situations than this instance. The decision states that the judges “do not recognize a blanket exemption” for the studio to the ordinance more broadly, and that the judges did not make a decision on “the general validity of the [Phoenix nondiscrimination] Ordinance or the Ordinance’s application to other individuals or businesses that are not before this Court.”

Previously, on June 7, 2019, the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from the Maricopa County Superior Court rejecting the business’ attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ by claiming a religious exemption.

Case History:

  • May 2016: Brush & Nib owners Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski file suit against the city of Phoenix, seeking a religious exemption from the city’s LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance and hoping to preempt them from having to serve LGBTQ customers.
  • July 19, 2017More than 60 businesses submit a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the defendant, supporting the nondiscrimination ordinance; major signers include PetSmart, GoDaddy, the Phoenix Suns, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Several other amicus briefs are filed.
  • October 27, 2017Judge Karen Mullins of the Maricopa County Superior Court rejects the argument of Duka and Koski that the ordinance violates Arizona’s free speech and free exercise of religion laws. Mullins had also denied an earlier request to keep the city from enforcing the ordinance. ADF states they plan to appeal.
  • June 7, 2018A three judge panel of the the Arizona Court of Appeals unanimously upholds Judge Mullins’ ruling, citing the Masterpiece Supreme Court case, among other victories for nondiscrimination, then writing, “In light of these cases and consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s decisions, we recognize that a law allowing Appellants to refuse service to customers based on sexual orientation would constitute a ‘grave and continuing harm.’” ADF intends to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.
  • July 11, 2018: ADF files documents seeking review from the Arizona Supreme Court.
  • January 22, 2019: The Arizona Supreme Court hears oral argument in this case.
  • September 16, 2019: The Arizona Supreme Court court issues a limited ruling allowing Brush & Nib to potentially deny creation of custom wedding invitations to LGBTQ people. Phoenix’ LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance, as well as others in Arizona, will continue to remain in place. The ruling does not indicate that these ordinances don’t still apply in other situations than this instance. 

Last updated September 18, 2019

Arizona Court of Appeals Ruling, June 2018

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