The Kentucky state Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Lexington print shop owner who refused to make LGBTQ Pride t-shirts because of his religious beliefs.
Back in 2012, Hands On Originals print shop declined to make t-shirts bearing a design that read, “Lexington Pride Festival.”
The owner of the company, Blaine Adamson, told reporters after a hearing before the state Supreme Court he couldn’t produce the shirts because the message “goes against my conscience.”
“Because of my Christian beliefs, I can’t promote that,” Adamson told a Human Rights Commission hearing officer at the time. “Specifically, it’s the Lexington Pride Festival, the name and that it’s advocating pride in being gay and being homosexual, and I can’t promote that message. It’s something that goes against my belief system.”
But the city of Lexington’s fairness ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in issues relating to housing, employment, and public accommodation.
So, the local Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission claiming Adamson unfairly discriminated in declining the t-shirt order.
According to the Courier-Journal, the HRC ordered Hands On Originals to print the shirts and attend diversity training classes.
Adamson, represented by the virulently anti-LGBTQ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, appealed his case and won at both the circuit court and state court of appeals.
This past August, his case landed at the state Supreme Court which has now decided in Adamson’s favor – but on a technicality.
The state high court dismissed the case ruling that the Lexington Gay and Lesbian Services Organization lacked standing to sue the t-shirt company because the GLSO wasn’t the party denied service by Hands On Originals.
The individual who originally placed the order and was turned away would have been the correct party to file suit according to the high court’s ruling.
“Without a proper complainant, no determination can be made as to whether the ordinance was violated,” Justice Laurance VanMeter of Lexington wrote for the court’s majority.
“While this result is no doubt disappointing to many interested in this case and its potential outcome, the fact that the wrong party filed the complaint makes the discrimination analysis almost impossible to conduct, including issues related to freedom of expression and religion,” VanMeter wrote.
And Justice David Buckingham, who wrote a concurring opinion, chastised the Lexington Human Rights League for trying to force Hands On Originals to “engage in expression with which it disagreed.”
Buckingham wrote, “When expression is involved, whether a parade organizer, a newspaper or a t-shirt company, a publisher may discriminate on the basis of content, even if that content relates to a protected classification.”
Raymond Sexton, executive director for the Human Rights Commission told the press he is reviewing the Supreme Court’s ruling and will discuss any possible further action at the next meeting of the commission.