Where does speech end and commerce begin? That is a key question in the debate over what legal protections should apply for business owners who participate in same-sex weddings.
Yesterday the Arizona Supreme Court held that two calligraphers and artists could not be forced to produce work for a same-sex wedding. The court’s decision concluded that calligraphy and artist expression was speech, and that a business owner could not be compelled to produce speech that contains a message the person disagrees with.
The case involved business owners who refused to produce wedding calligraphy for a same-sex wedding. The couple getting married sued, arguing that this refusal constituted discrimination based on sexual orientation. The court disagreed, saying that this type of activity was not mere commerce, but also involved “pure speech.”
The issue of whether business owners who think same-sex marriage is sinful can be compelled to provide services to these types of marriages is one that has emerged in states around the nation. Often, the issue involves anti-discrimination laws fit with constitutional protections for religion and speech.
In its 4-3 decision, the Arizona Supreme Court decided that the principle of free speech was paramount:
[The business owners'] beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some. But the guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive. They are for everyone. After all, while our own ideas may be popular today, they may not be tomorrow.
However, the court also noted that this was a limited decision focused on the calligraphy business in question. It did not hold that all business activities could be shielded from ordinances that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Do you agree that business owners should not be compelled to produce artistic items for same-sex weddings or other activities that violate their religious beliefs?