Written by Don Byrd

In her most recent Report From the Capital column, Baptist Joint Committee General Counsel Holly Hollman discussed the issues involved in the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, which is scheduled for a hearing on December 5. The Court there is asked to decide, she explains, “whether a Colorado baker has a constitutional right to refuse to make a cake for the wedding reception of a same-sex couple, despite state law requiring nondiscrimination in places of public accommodation (businesses open to the public).”

While our nation’s highest court begins its review of the case, however, other similar disputes continue to be litigated around the country. In Arizona’s Maricopa County, for example, a judge this week rejected a challenge brought by owners of a business engaged in designing invitations and other handmade artwork for weddings against a Phoenix ordinance prohibiting businesses from engaging in discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Requiring them to provide their services for same-sex weddings, they argue, violates their religious freedom rights under Arizona law.

The Republic’s Jessica Boehm reports on Judge Karen Mullins’ ruling in favor of the government:

In her written order, Mullins said Phoenix can prohibit Brush & Nib from refusing to serve clients based on their sexual orientation and prevent the owners from advertising that they will not serve same-sex couples. 

“The government may permissibly regulate the sale of goods and services by businesses that sell those goods and services to the general public. This is true even if the goods and services at issue involve expression or artistic creativity,” she said.

[Owners] Duka and Koski can, however, publish their religious opinions about marriage so long as they don’t “state or imply that same-sex couples are unwelcome as customers,” Mullins said.

The judge also noted, “the printing of same-sex persons names on wedding invitations does not hinder in any way plaintiffs’ independent exercise of (their) religious belief by attending the church of their choice, engaging in religious activities or functions, and expressing their beliefs on their business website and literature or in their personal lives.”

You can read the judge’s written order explaining her decision here. The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the business owners, has said it intends to appeal the ruling.