Christian artists act pre-emptively to protect their religious beliefs by asking court to nix state's anti-discrimination law

Christian artists Breanna Koski (L) and Joanna Duka say they cannot create art for events that celebrate same-sex marriage.(Alliance Defending Freedom)

Two Christian artists have filed a pre-enforcement lawsuit against Phoenix City in Arizona, asking the court to declare the city's anti-discrimination law as unconstitutional and violative of their religious beliefs on marriage.

The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on behalf of Brush & Nib Studio, owned by Christians Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, which created hand-drawn invitation and paintings for weddings and businesses.

It alleges that Phoenix is violating the two Christians' rights under the Arizona Constitution and the Arizona Free Exercise of Religion Act that compel them to create art that go against their religious beliefs.

They are asking the court to declare Phoenix City Code 18.4 B unconstitutional. The provision outlaws discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Discrimination in places of public accommodation against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability is contrary to the policy of the City of Phoenix and shall be deemed unlawful," the Phoenix law reads.

According to the lawsuit, Duka and Koski "believe that God created marriage as a union exclusively between one man and one woman. And they cannot create art for events that celebrate any other kind of marriage, including same-sex marriage."

The lawsuit said the two artists face an imminent and impossible choice to violate their religious beliefs, create art for same-sex wedding ceremonies and not publish their beliefs about art and marriage, and suffer fines and jail time.

The two are asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction against the enforcement of Phoenix City Code 18.4 B(3) as applied to protected communications and to their desired communications promoting marriage as between one man and one woman only and declining to create artwork promoting events or ideas that violate their beliefs.

They also want the same actions against Phoenix City Code 18.4 B (1 and 2) regarding the anti-discrimination ordinance.

"The government must allow artists the freedom to make personal decisions about what art they will create and what art they won't create," says ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.