Court will take up Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance

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PHOENIX (AP) | The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Jan. 23 in a challenge of Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance that makes it illegal for businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples for religion reasons.

Two Christian artists who operate a business that makes invitations and other wedding-related items argue that the ordinance will violate their religious beliefs by forcing them to custom-make products for same-sex marriage ceremonies.

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Faith-based shelter fights to keep out transgender women

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) | A conservative Christian law firm that has pushed religious issues in multiple states urged a U.S. judge on Jan. 11 to block Alaska’s largest city from requiring a faith-based women’s shelter to accept transgender women.

Alliance Defending Freedom has sued the city of Anchorage to stop it from applying a gender identity law to the Hope Center shelter, which denied entry to a transgender woman last year. The lawsuit says homeless shelters are exempt from the local law and that constitutional principles of privacy and religious freedom are at stake.

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Colorado baker back in court over 2nd LGBT bias allegation

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DENVER (AP) | Attorneys for a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds — a stand partially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — argued in federal court Dec. 18 that the state is punishing him again over his refusal to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition.

Lawyers for Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, are suing to try to stop the state from taking action against him over the new discrimination allegation. They say the state is treating Phillips with hostility because of his Christian faith and pressing a complaint that they call an “obvious setup.”

“At this point, he’s just a guy who is trying to get back to life. The problem is the state of Colorado won’t let him,” Jim Campbell, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said after the hearing. The conservative Christian nonprofit law firm is representing Phillips.

State officials argued for the case to be dismissed, but the judge said he was inclined to let the case move forward and would issue a written ruling later.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission said Phillips discriminated against Denver attorney Autumn Scardina because she’s transgender. Phillips’ shop refused to make a cake last year that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside after Scardina revealed she wanted it to celebrate her transition from male to female.

She asked for the cake on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would consider Phillips’ appeal of the previous commission ruling against him. In that 2012 case, he refused to make a wedding cake for same-sex couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the Colorado commission showed anti-religious bias when it sanctioned Phillips for refusing to make the cake, voting 7-2 that it violated Phillips’ First Amendment rights.

But the court did not rule on the larger issue of whether businesses can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gays and lesbians.

Phillips’ lawsuit alleges that Colorado violated his First Amendment right to practice his faith and 14th Amendment right to equal protection. It seeks $100,000 in punitive damages from Aubrey Elenis, director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says the case should be dismissed because of state efforts to enforce its order against Phillips. A state hearing is scheduled for February to determine what will happen next.

Deputy Attorney General LeeAnn Morrill told Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel that the commission did not mention religion in its latest finding against Phillips. She said the commission also has used the state’s anti-discrimination law to protect people who have faced bias because of their faith.

The judge said he thought the Supreme Court’s ruling had more relevance in the current case than the state acknowledged and quoted from the justices’ opinions during the hearing. He mentioned now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s conclusion that the commission had shown “hostility” toward religion.

Wiley said he would have to hear evidence before deciding whether to temporarily block state proceedings.

In the lawsuit, Phillips’ attorneys say he “believes as a matter of religious conviction that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.”

It claims Phillips has been harassed and received death threats and that his small shop was vandalized while the wedding cake case made its way through the courts.

Supreme Court urged to undo Pa. school’s pro-trans bathroom policy

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Following rejection from lower courts, an anti-LGBT legal group is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to block a Pennsylvania’s school district policy allowing transgender kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.

Alliance Defending Freedom submitted the 32-page petition for certiorari before the court on Nov. 19, asserting Boyertown Area School District’s pro-trans bathroom policy violates the right to privacy of its students — a notion rebuffed by a trial court in Pennsylvania and the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Judge agrees to trial date in Anchorage transgender case

By : wire report
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) | A federal judge in Alaska has agreed to a 2020 trial date for a lawsuit filed by a faith-based Anchorage women’s shelter against the city over a requirement that it accept transgender women.

In an order filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason said she accepted a trial date starting April 8, 2020. That date was requested by the parties.

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Anchorage shelter seeks to exclude transgender people

By : wire report
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) | A faith-based women’s homeless shelter in Anchorage is suing to block the city from requiring it to accept transgender women, which it said would violate its religious beliefs.

Lawyers for Alliance Defending Freedom filed a motion in federal court Nov. 1 seeking an injunction to stop the city from applying its gender identity law to the Hope Center shelter in Anchorage. The conservative Christian law firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona, says homeless shelters are exempt from the local law, yet the city has used the law to “investigate, harass, and pressure” the downtown shelter.

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Transgender policy studied in Georgia school assault case

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WASHINGTON (AP)| The Education Department said October 3 that it is investigating whether a Georgia school district’s policy allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice created a “hostile environment” for a 5-year-old girl who said she was sexually assaulted in a school bathroom.

The complaint, filed on behalf of the parent of the girl, has the potential to upend a heated national debate on transgender students and their access to education bathrooms and locker rooms. The Obama administration sided with transgender students in their choice of school bathrooms, but the Trump administration scrapped that policy and said it was a local decision for schools and states.

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16 states urge Supreme Court to rule workers can be fired for being trans

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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A coalition of 16 states led by Nebraska Attorney General Douglas Peterson is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a federal appeals court decision in favor of a fired transgender funeral home worker and determine workers can be terminated for being transgender.

The states filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court last week in response to a petition urging justices to take up and reverse the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, which held anti-trans discrimination is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars sex discrimination.

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Fit for Print: Stop weaponizing religion

By : Steve Blanchard
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From a very young age it was drummed into me that there was a right way to act and a wrong way to act. I’m talking, of course, about my days in church.

Fortunately, the church I attended wasn’t a fire and brimstone kind of place. There were plenty of messages about kindness, doing unto others and helping those who are less fortunate. But every message had the same footnote: “By the way, stay on the straight and narrow and avoid an eternity in the fiery pits of hell. Do what you’re told to do and the big man in the sky who spends all of his time spying on you won’t have a reason to punish you forever.”

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Conservative groups upset over ‘boycott’ by LGBT Bar Association

By : Lou Chibbaro Jr OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Two national litigation groups that specialize in lawsuits seeking to overturn LGBT rights laws issued a joint statement last week denouncing the National LGBT Bar Association for calling on the nation’s lawyers and law firms to refuse to provide free legal services for the two groups.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the Colorado baker in the now famous anti-LGBT Supreme Court decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and the Liberty Counsel accused the D.C.-based National LGBT Bar Association of fomenting anti-religious bias.

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Jack Phillips in court again after refusing to make cake for trans customer

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who became notorious after a lawsuit against him for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple went to the U.S. Supreme Court, finds himself back in litigation — this time because his bakery wouldn’t make a cake celebrating the transition of a transgender person.

Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal firm that represented Phillips in the wedding cake lawsuit, announced on Wednesday it has sued the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for finding probable case he violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act for refusing to make the cake.

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Supreme Court sends back ‘religious freedom’ case from anti-gay florist

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers is seeking an OK to refuse service to gay couples. Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced that it has sent back for review to Washington State a lawsuit filed by an anti-gay florist seeking a First Amendment right to refuse service to same-sex weddings.

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