Metro Weekly

Republican governor rejects protecting gay people from discrimination

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey says he's more interested in 'repealing laws' than expanding discrimination protections to gay people

Gov. Doug Ducey
Gov. Doug Ducey — Photo: Gage Skidmore

Arizona’s Republican governor has ruled out expanding the state’s nondiscrimination laws to include protections based on sexual orientation.

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said he is “against discrimination in all its forms,” but doesn’t think protecting gay people is necessary, reports.

His comments came after Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled last week that a calligraphy business was legally justified in refusing to create custom invitations for same-sex weddings.

Ducey said last week he agreed with the court’s decision, arguing that it struck an appropriate balance between the rights of business owners and the rights of gay people to be free from discrimination.

While local ordinances exist in Arizona protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination — such as Phoenix’s law at the center of the aforementioned Supreme Court decision — Ducey doesn’t believe that statewide protections are necessary for gay people, let alone other LGBTQ people.

Despite recognizing that anti-LGBTQ discrimination exists, Ducey rejected legislative change, saying, “I think we’ve got a lot of laws. I’ve been more in the business of wanting to repeal laws and regulations.”

He added: “The court was able to find a place where they could respect the First Amendment and religious freedom. And we’ll continue to be a state, because it was so narrowly decided, that doesn’t accept discrimination in these forums.”

While narrow, the Supreme Court decision effectively undermined the city of Phoenix’s nondiscrimination ordinance by ruling that calligraphy business Brush & Nib Studio could discriminate against its same-sex customers based on their religious beliefs.

Though the court declined to issue a sweeping ruling covering all businesses, the ruling leaves Phoenix’s nondiscrimination ordinance — and many others across the country — in limbo, at least with respect to whether such laws can be enforced.

Lambda Legal, which filed amicus briefs urging the court to uphold the city’s nondiscrimination protections, blasted the court’s decision as “troubling” and “misguided.”

“Today, addressing a narrow factual context, a closely divided Arizona Supreme Court issued a troubling decision that grants business owners a limited license to discriminate when creating custom-designed, wedding-related art work,” Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel and law and policy director at Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “The Court misguidedly has concluded that free speech protections allow businesses to express anti-gay religious views by denying particular custom-design services to customers because of who they are.”

Pizer added: “This ruling is dramatically at odds with decisions by courts across the country that have instead refused to create a religious license for businesses to exempt themselves from civil rights laws, and to pick and choose their customers according to their own religious criteria.”

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