Arizona Judge Protects LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Ordinance in Phoenix

By Adam Polaski • October 27, 2017 • 10:41 am

A judge in Arizona has ruled this week that a business owner’s religious beliefs do not entitle them to a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The decision from a Maricopa County Superior Court judge found that a retail store that sells wedding invitations and other wedding-related stationary and objections cannot be exempt from the city of Phoenix’s non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other classes.

Notably, the business was seeking an exemption from the ordinance, which has been in place for several years now, despite never having been approached by an LGBTQ person seeking their services, an obvious attempt to undercut an ordinance that protects people from unequal treatment.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a member of Freedom for All Americans’ Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination coalition, said this week:

“Today was a victory for civil rights and when there’s a victory for civil rights, it’s not just a victory for the LGBT community, it’s a victory for everyone.”

Congratulations to Mayor Stanton, the people of Phoenix, and our partners at One Community AZ, who worked to support the case.

The decision comes just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, scheduled for December 5. The case concerns a baker who refused to sell a cake to a same-sex couple. It tackles a similar question: Can a business be exempt from an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination law?

Judges have almost never found it persuasive when businesses have sought to exempt themselves from local or state non-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people. Click here to see a list of six other cases in recent history where courts have ruled against religious refusal policies or efforts. 

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