A pair of Arizona-based Christian artists is challenging the local law that threatens to fine and imprison them for refusing to make same-sex wedding invitations.
Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio in Phoenix, lost a case at trial level which accused them of violating a local ordinance that protects homosexuals from discrimination, Fox News reported.
The ordinance also prevents the business owners from publicly explaining their convictions or even defending their decision lest they face jail time for that as well. This apparent violation of the First Amendment protection of free speech is at the heart of the case.
Attorney Kristen Waggoner, of the religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom, discussed her clients’ case with Shannon Bream Friday on Fox News’ “The Kelly File.”
“We don’t force artists to create artistic expression under threat of jail time,” Waggoner said. “Americans don’t give up their constitutional rights because they want to earn a living and feed their children, nor do artists.”
Duka and Koski, as well as other business owners, face fines and six months in jail for every day they are out of compliance with the ordinance. The judge in the case stated that the pair were simply asked to create an informational invitation and not expected to endorse the customers’ lifestyle.
Phoenix Vice Mayor Kate Gallego defended the law, claiming it is necessary to keep businesses in the local area.
“This ordinance is an important economic development tool and we will defend it,” she said, citing examples of businesses that leave communities which “discriminate” and “don’t stand up for all their residents.”
But it seems in this case, the city will only “stand up for all their residents” if they are not Christian business owners choosing to defend their values.
An appeal has been filed and Waggoner is confident that another judge will see the case differently.
“Free speech is a bedrock principle in the First Amendment,” she said. Allowing that to be compromised, “we know that other civil liberties are sure to follow.”
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