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


Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

National Pride Grant money

The LGBTQIA+ National Grant allows eligible small businesses to receive one of 25 grants totaling $25,000. Founders First is committed to increasing the number of diverse founder-led companies generating over $1 million in revenue and creating premium-wage jobs. To be eligible, the company's founder must identify as LGBTQIA+, have an active U.S.-based business, be the CEO, President, or owner, and employ between 2 and 50 employees

SAN DIEGO (PRWEB) May 06, 2023 -- Founders First CDC (Founders First), a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that empowers the expansion of diverse founder-led, revenue-generating businesses alongside TurningPoint Executive Search, is pleased to announce that the inaugural National Pride Grant, a grant fund to support U.S. based LGBTQIA+ small business owners, is now open for pre-registration.

Keep readingShow less

The Perfect Jean

Disclaimer: This product has been tested and reviewed by our writer and any views or opinions are their own. Please note there are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase.

I don’t know what it is with men’s jeans that make it so difficult to find the right pair. It takes time to go through all these denim brands and try styles like straight-legged, boot-cut, and then the disco favorite, flared jeans. Thanks to popular metal bands back in the day, acid-washed and stone-washed jeans were a thing–pair those with a biker jacket and some big hair, and you were set.

Keep readingShow less
Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

The Best Cannabis Edibles for 2023

Disclaimer: Please note there are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase.

I think we’ve all been there back in the day when we smoked our first joint, and then some, (sorry mom)–hacking, coughing, and choking on the herbaceous weed. Nowadays, there are several products on the market that produces the same effects but without a sore throat like the popular cannabis edibles.

Keep readingShow less