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Artists Fighting Back to Avoid Jail Time For Refusing Gay Wedding

05-18-2016

Christian owners of a small calligraphy and print shop in Phoenix are bringing the city to court in order to avoid potential fines, criminal citations and jail time if they refuse to offer their services for same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Brianna Koski and Joanna Duka are owners of "Brush and Nib." According to a recent complaint filed by the partners, they want to run their business in a way that honors God.

This move by the two artists is an attempt to avoid being the latest victims destroyed by gay-rights advocates who file complaints against business owners who have chosen to stand up for their religious beliefs. 

Recently, a minister of a for-profit wedding chapel in Idaho was threatened with jail time if he refused to perform same-sex weddings. 

In New Mexico, the state supreme court ruled that a wedding photographer could not cite her religious objection to refuse to photograph a gay wedding. 

Koski and Duke are trying to get ahead of these issues by filing a "pre-enforcement challenge" against the city over Phoenix's non-discrimination ordinance, which bars discrimination against "sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression" in "any place of public accommodation".

If Koski and Duke declined to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony, they could be fined $2,500 a day for violating that law. They could also spend six months in jail, since their studio creates art for traditional wedding ceremonies.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Koski and Duke and they say they should be able to create art that does not violate their religious freedom. 

"Artists shouldn't be threatened with jail for disagreeing with the government," said Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. 

"The government must allow artists the freedom to make personal decisions about what art they will create and what art they won't create," he said. 

"Just because an artist creates expression that communicates one viewpoint doesn't mean she is required to express all viewpoints", he added. "It's unjust, unnecessary, and unlawful to force an artist to create against her will and intimidate her into silence."

The lawsuit asked the Arizona Court to give the two artist the freedom to create artwork consistent with their artistic and religious beliefs as well as explain their beliefs to others. 

Koski and Duke are now waiting for the Arizona court to decide their case. 

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