Kentucky Court of Appeals Rules for Religious Liberty

by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  May 16, 2017   

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FRANKFORT, Ky. ( - The Kentucky Court of Appeals is ruling that a business did not violate a city ordinance when it refused to make T-shirts for a gay pride event in 2012.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled on May 12 that the printing company, Hands On Originals (HOO), did not violate the city of Lexington's fairness ordinance when it refused to do business with the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO).

Chief Judge Joy Kramer wrote in the majority opinion that HOO objected to the spreading of the GLSO's message, not the sexual behavior of its members. She noted the business' service is "the promotion of messages" and that the company cannot be compelled to advocate a message contrary to the owners' beliefs. She added, "The right of free speech does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else's property."

In March 2012, a representative of the GLSO approached HOO to have t-shirts made for an upcoming gay pride festival. The design for the shirt was originally approved by an employee of the business but Blaine Anderson, the managing owner, informed the GLSO representative the company would be unable to make the shirt. He recommended another local company that would fill the order and abide by the price originally discussed for the order.

I don't leave my faith at the door when I walk into my business. In my case, fortunately, the legal system worked.

Aaron Baker, president and representative of the GLSO, filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, alleging sexual orientation discrimination. A different printing company made the T-shirts for the GLSO at no charge.

Adamson told the commission, "Because of my Christian beliefs, I can't promote that." He continued, "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."

After the commission ruled that HOO, a company open to the public, had discriminated, Anderson appealed the commission's decision in court where the circuit judge sided with HOO, asserting, "it is clear beyond dispute that (Hands On Originals) and its owners declined to print the T-shirts in question because of the message advocating sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman."

The t-shirt desigh Adamson
refused to print.

Adamson received support from an unlikely ally, another printing company owned by a same-sex female couple. Kathy Trautvetter, owner of BMP T-Shirts in ... New Jersey commented, "When I read the story, I immediately felt, 'If I were in his shoes, what would they be forcing me to do?' I have to say, if that were me, I wouldn't like it either." She added, "The idea is that when you own your own business, it's your own art and creation — it's very personal ... it takes a long time to build a business." “When someone wants to force you to go against it — that’s what stuck me right in the heart. I really felt for Blaine.”

Adamson commented after the appeals court ruling, "I don't leave my faith at the door when I walk into my business. In my case, fortunately, the legal system worked."


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