The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a Phoenix-based calligraphy business cannot refuse service to same-sex couples because it would constitute “grave and continuing harm,” therefore upholding the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance as constitutional.
“We recognize that a law allowing Appellants to refuse service to customers based on sexual orientation would constitute ‘grave and continuing harm,'” Presiding Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop wrote in the opinion of the court.
The ruling from the Arizona Court of Appeals comes just days after the Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
However, the Supreme Court did not address the larger issue of whether businesses can refuse service to same-sex couples based on deeply held religious beliefs, focusing instead on the argument that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with “religious animus” when it originally ruled against the baker.
The Supreme Court’s decision also reaffirmed protections for gay men and lesbians.
In the Arizona case, the state appeals court acknowledged the business’s religious liberty argument, but ultimately rejected it.
“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.
The Hill added:
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 Arizona decision was celebrated by civil rights advocates, including 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.