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Kentucky Court Sides with Business Owner Who Refused to Print Gay Pride Shirts

Kentucky Court Sides with Business Owner Who Refused to Print Gay Pride Shirts

Back in 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) filed a complaint against the owner of a printing company after he declined doing a t-shirt print job for a local Gay Pride festival.  

Blaine Adamson, the owner of Hands on Originals (HOO) in Lexington, had referred the job to another printer due to his religious objections.

Adamson’s refusal ignited a legal battle.  

“GLSO’s complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission landed Adamson a ruling that would have required him to take on jobs at his business that force him to abandon his faith principles,” writes Breitbart. “Attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented Adamson, appealed the order to the Fayette Circuit Court, which reversed the commission’s ruling and affirmed Adamson’s religious freedom. The commission, however, then appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals, which ultimately upheld the circuit court’s ruling.” 

Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer ruled on May 12, 2017 that Adamson did not unlawfully discriminate against the GLSO.  

“[I]t is not the aim of public accommodation laws, nor the First Amendment, to treat speech as this type of activity or conduct. This is so for two reasons. First, speech cannot be considered an activity or conduct that is engaged in exclusively or predominantly by a particular class of people. Speech is an activity anyone engages in—regardless of religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, age, or even corporate status. Second, the right of free speech does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else’s property, even property owned by the government and dedicated to other purposes, as a stage to express ideas,” wrote Kramer.

Kramer also cited that the business identifies itself as a “Christian outfitter” and also has a “right to refusal” on its website.

“Hand On Originals both employs and conducts business with people of all genders, races, religious, sexual orientations, and national origins. However, due to the promotional nature of our products, it is the prerogative of Hands On Originals to refuse any order that would endorse positions that conflict with the convictions of the ownership,” writes Hands on Originals on its website. 

The judge ruled in favor of HOO because the owner did not refuse an individual services based on their specific sexual orientation or gender identity.

Just like gay right supporters can wear shirts promoting their beliefs, business owners also have a right to uphold their religious beliefs.  

Adamson has refused to do print jobs with demeaning messages like the term “bitches” and disrespectful depictions of Jesus.

“Americans should always have the freedom to believe, the freedom to express those beliefs, and the freedom to not express ideas that would violate their conscience,” said Jim Campbell, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel. “Today’s decision is a victory for printers and other creative professionals who serve all people but cannot promote all messages. It is also a victory for all Americans because it reassures us all that, no matter what you believe, the law can’t force you to express a message in conflict with your deepest convictions.”

Author’s note: This ruling would have been much different in the Obama era, where conservative views were punished. But, should a business have the right to refuse to do business with someone else? What if a printer elsewhere refuses to print pro-Trump t-shirts because they have liberal views? This could turn into a Supreme Court case. 

Editor’s note: As a business owner, I have always believed that any business should be free to do or not do business with anyone.

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