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Arizona appeals court upholds anti-discrimination law

[JURIST] The Arizona Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld [opinion, PDF] a Phoenix anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal for businesses to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

The suit was brought by the two owners of a business that specializes in designing wedding and special event products. They are "devout Christians and believe their work is inextricably related to their religious beliefs." The owners believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and do not want to create any artwork that "promotes any marriage except marriage between one man and one woman." They also wanted to post a statement in order to notify potential customers to this fact.

The court upheld the anti-discrimination law, saying that it does not substantially burden their religious beliefs. "Appellants are not penalized for expressing their belief that their religion only recognizes the marriage of opposite-sex couples." The court also said that "Phoenix has a compelling interest in preventing discrimination, and has done so here through the least restrictive means."

This holding comes the same week that the US Supreme Court handed a narrow victory [JURIST report] to a Colorado baker who had refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple citing his religious beliefs. The court ruled that the commission violated the First Amendment's free exercise clause in assessing the cakeshop owner's reasons for refusing to make the cake.

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