Ariz. court rules for wedding invitation business seeking to turn away gays

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled the City of Phoenix cannot apply its LGBT-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance to penalize a local business for refusing to make custom-made invitations for a same-sex wedding, delivering a victory for groups seeking to justify anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.”

In a 4-3 decision written by Justice Andrew Gould, the court determines the guarantee of freedom of religion and speech under the Arizona state constitution permits Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studios, LC, to deny services to same-sex couples.

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Wash. florist returns to Supreme Court for right to refuse service to gays

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.

After obtaining a perfunctory decision last year in her favor, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State is back before the U.S. Supreme Court with a renewed call for a First Amendment ruling allowing her to refuse service to same-sex couples seeking floral arrangements for their weddings.

In her 41-page petition for certiorari, Baronelle Stutzman alleges the Washington State Supreme Court ignored case law in favor of religious freedom when it ruled—now twice—she violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination by refusing to provide floral arrangements in 2013 for a same-sex wedding.

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Lawsuit prompts decision to repeal NYC conversion therapy ban

By : Lou Chibbaro Jr. OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: NYC. Photo by Daniel Schwen, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Corey Johnson, the openly gay Speaker of the New York City Council, introduced a bill Sept. 12 to repeal a law the Council passed in 2017 that prohibits mental health professionals from performing so-called conversion therapy on both adults and minors.

Johnson said he remains convinced the practice of attempting change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is harmful and ineffective based on assessments by virtually all of the nation’s mainstream mental health advocacy organizations, which have issued statements opposing conversion therapy.

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Trump admin to Supreme Court: It’s OK to fire workers for being trans

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Donald Trump, Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key.

Defying massive case law, the Trump administration urged the Supreme Court late Friday to issue a ruling that federal civil rights law doesn’t cover discrimination based on gender identity, therefore firing workers for being transgender is perfectly legal.

In a 54-page brief signed by U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the U.S. Justice Department argues Congress didn’t intend to include transgender people when it passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in employment.

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Education Dept. agrees to take up anti-trans complaint from girl athletes

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Betsy DeVos, Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.

The Trump administration has agreed to investigate a complaint from an anti-LGBT legal group contending a Connecticut’s school trans-inclusive policy has “denied equal athletic benefits and opportunities to girls.”

The complaint was filed by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of three teen athletes and accepted by the Department of Education Wednesday at a time when opponents of LGBT non-discrimination measures are stoking fears over men playing in women’s sports to derail those efforts.

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Wash. high court again rules against florist who refused to serve gays

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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In the aftermath of being forced to reevaluate it decision following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Washington State Supreme Court has again concluded Arlene’s Flowers violated the state’s LGBT non-discrimination law by refusing to provide floral services to a same-sex wedding.

The 76-page decision finds previous decisions in the case were reviewed correctly under the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious neutrality. Thus, the new decision reaches the same conclusion Baronelle Stutzman violated state law in 2013 by refusing to serve a same-sex couple seeking to buy wedding flowers.

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Supreme Court rebuffs Hawaii B&B seeking to deny boarding to same-sex couples

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The U.S. Supreme Court on March 18 announced it has refused to hear the case of a Hawaii bed and breakfast that sought to refuse service to same-sex couples out of religious objections.

The high court indicated it had denied certiorari to Aloha Bed & Breakfast, or refused to take up its case, in an order list March 18 reflecting decisions justices made during a conference on March 15.

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New agreement ends litigation against Masterpiece Cakeshop

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Masterpiece Cakeshop — famed for its case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court after its owner refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple — has reached a new agreement with the State of Colorado to end subsequent litigation against him.

As part of the new agreement, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will withdraw its administrative action against owner Jack Phillips. The commission found probable cause the bakery violated state law by refusing to make a cake celebrating a gender transition for a transgender person’s birthday.

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Court will take up Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance

By : wire report
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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

By : wire report
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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

By : wire report
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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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