Panel explores legal battle for LGBTQ rights

Story by Jeff Kronenfeld, July 2019 Issue.

Photos by Bill Gemmill


American Constitution Society (ACS) hosted a panel exploring current and past

cases that impact LGBTQ rights and potentially the rights of other marginalized

groups as well. Held on June 6, the panel was made up of lawyers involved in

some of these cases, plus Nate Rhoton, the executive director of one•n•ten, a

non-profit in downtown Phoenix serving LGBTQ youth. Though much progress has

been made on LGBTQ rights during the preceding decades, the anti-LGBTQ policies

of the Trump administration and the rightward shift of state and federal courts

had most of the panelist concerned if not fearful for the future.

The panel — titled Brush and Nib and

Beyond: New Frontiers in LGBTQ Rights — was moderated by Randy McDonald, an

attorney with the law firm Perkins Coie, one of the event’s sponsors. He began

with a question to Eric Fraser, an attorney who argued on behalf of the City of

Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance in front of the Arizona Supreme Court

in January. That case was brought by a small wedding stationary company with

help from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the latter of which is

identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group and

is headquartered in Scottsdale. The ordinance protects people from

discrimination by businesses on the basis of race, national origin, sex,

marital status, religion and other characteristics.

Phoenix’s public accommodation ordinance

was originally passed in 1963, but was amended in 2013 to include sexual

orientation, gender identity or expression, and disability. The stationary

company, named Brush and Nib and operated by Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski,

claimed that the ordinance violated their constitutional rights by preventing

them from stating that they refuse to offer LGBTQ couples the same service as

heterosexual ones on their website. “What makes this interesting, I think, is

that no same-sex couple had ever requested services from this company before

they sued,” Fraser said.

This marked the Brush and Nib case out from

the raft of similar challenges to anti-discrimination ordinances and laws

across the nation, many of which are also bankrolled and argued by the ADF.

Though the city won in lower courts, ADF attorneys filed a petition that

brought the case before the Arizona Supreme Court. The city filed a petition

arguing their opponents did not have standing, which the Supreme Court

initially rejected, then reversed its decision just before oral arguments.

“They wouldn’t let us file any more briefings on the issue, which is weird,” Fraser

explained. “That would be a way to dodge this issue, as we know the U.S.

Supreme Court dodged the main issue in Masterpiece Cakeshop [a case from

Colorado where a baker refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding], but

there really weren’t many questions about it at oral argument, so I’m not sure

whether that’s the way they’ll go or not.”

Also discussed were several related cases

involving a range of other wedding services, everything from cakes to flowers

to video editors. The Supreme Court for the state of Washington conveniently

decided one such case the morning of the panel. Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers

involved a same-sex couple who sued a florist for refusing to provide flowers

for their wedding. The morning’s ruling was a reconsideration of the case in

light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and

reconfirmed the earlier decision in favor of the same-sex couple.

Though the ADF’s argument was rejected, the

organization seems likely to continue its crusade in support of discrimination.

“The arguments are very similar in many of these cases and [the ADF] seem[s] to

have been trying different places to advance their legal arguments,” explained

panelist Jennifer Pizer, the law and policy director for Lambda Legal, a national

legal organization advocating for LGBTQ people’s civil rights. [JW2]

Another panelist, Julie Wilensky, a senior

staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, discussed a recent

victory for LGBTQ youth in Arizona that demonstrated how legal proceedings can

help prompt political solutions in addition to legal ones. She was one of the

attorneys involved in a recent case that challenged Arizona’s so-called “No

Promo for Homo” Law, which passed in 1991 and banned schools from including positive

or even medically accurate discussions of homosexuality in HIV/AIDS education.

The suit

challenged the 1991 law on the grounds of an equal protection claim and

outlined how it directly harmed LGBTQ youths. The suit resolved soon after the

state legislature repealed the challenged law. Another important component in

passing the repeal, which had been attempted several times in recent years, was

the criticism of the 1991 law by new Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy

Hoffman. “Within two weeks [of the suit being brought] the law had been

repealed,” said McDonald, the moderator. “In Arizona state politics, that’s

basically the speed of light.”


these and other recent victories for LGBTQ rights mentioned, the discussion

seemed more dominated by concerns and fears for the future. However, whatever

may come, the panelists also seemed resolved to continue the fight. “My

takeaway today is that there is still so much more work to do,” said Rhoton.

“It’s scary, the potential for backslide, but also how interconnected the

various civil rights protections and codes are and how a quote-unquote bad

decision, as it pertains for LGBTQ rights and issues, could impact so many

marginalized communities across the nation and truly disrupt the fabric of our


WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less