The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld a Christian print shop owner's right to decline an order for t-shirts that was intended to promote a gay pride event because it conflicts with his religious beliefs.
In a 2–1 decision on Friday, the appellate court ruled that Hands On Originals (HOO), a printing shop in Lexington, Kentucky, could not be forced to print T-shirts for a gay pride event because it would violate his free speech rights.
"Nothing in the [Lexington-Fayette Urban County] fairness ordinance prohibits HOO (Hands on Originals), a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship," wrote Chief Judge Joy Kramer, according to Christian News Network.
"Thus, although the menu of services HOO provides to the public is accordingly limited, and censors certain points of view, it is the same limited menu HOO offers to every customer and is not, therefore, prohibited by the fairness ordinance," she added.
Judge Jeff Taylor dissented, saying he believed the print shop had violated the fairness ordinance and engaged in unlawful discrimination against homosexuals by declining the order. He argued that there was nothing obscene or defamatory about the speech in the t-shirt design to justify censoring it.
The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington (GLSO) placed the order for the t-shirts in 2012. When HOO owner Blaine Adamson declined the order due to his religious beliefs, the group filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Human Rights Commission (HRC). The commission ruled in October 2014 that HOO violated the law by refusing to print the shirts and ordered the company to undergo diversity training.
HOO filed an appeal to the Fayette Circuit Court, which ruled in Adamson's favor in 2015, but the commission appealed the decision.
Adamson has maintained that his print shop does not discriminate against anybody, but he said he will not promote messages that conflict with his religious convictions. He noted that HOO has declined at least 13 other printing jobs because of his faith. He has refused to print t-shirts that contained violent messages, as well as a shirt that promoted a strip club.
Jim Campbell, Adamson's attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, said that Adamson was relieved when the Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld the 2015 decision on Friday.
"He is very glad that a court, now the second court, has said he didn't discriminate. He didn't discriminate against anyone," Campbell stated, as reported by The Stream. He said they are now waiting to see if the commission would appeal the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court.