Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has submitted a legal brief to the Kentucky Supreme Court in support of a Christian business owner who refused to print t-shirts for a gay rights festival due to his religious beliefs.
The case involving Hands On Originals began in 2012 when the company was charged with violating Lexington's fairness ordinance when it refused to print T-shirts for the city's gay pride festival.
Under the fairness ordinance, businesses that are open to the public are prohibited from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation.
Last May, The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hands On Originals, saying the company's right to free speech overruled the city's fairness ordinance.
In a majority opinion, Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer noted that Lexington's ordinance protects LGBT individuals from discrimination because of their sexual orientation, but Hands On Originals objected to spreading the gay rights group's message. She contended that it is not the same as refusing to serve the group because of the sexual behavior of its individual members.
The ruling has since been appealed by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, and the case is currently in front of the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Bevin's lawyers have filed a brief arguing that forcing the owners of Hands On Originals to print T-shirts promoting homosexuality would be a violation of the company's religious freedom and its freedom of conscience guaranteed in the Kentucky Constitution.
"This important case, which has attracted national attention, tests whether Kentucky's history of safeguarding freedom of conscience will continue or be curtailed," said Steve Pitt, Bevin's general counsel, according to Lexington Herald-Leader.
"Requiring Hands-On's owners to engage in speech with which they disagree is a violation of their freedom of conscience, and we are hopeful that the Kentucky Supreme Court will reaffirm this bedrock of Kentucky's constitutional charter," he continued.
Several conservative groups, such as The Cato Institute and the Kentucky Baptist Convention, have joined Bevin in filing briefs in support of Hands On Originals.
The company's owner, Blaine Adamson, is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal organization advocating for religious liberty.
In a 2017 video posted by ADF on YouTube, Adamson explained that Hands On Originals will work with anyone regardless of their background, but he will refuse to print a message if it conflicts with his conscience.
Adamson had also noted that he has declined other orders for a T-shirt with a message that reads, "Homosexuality is a sin," explaining that "I don't think that's how Jesus would have handled the issue; Jesus would have balanced grace and truth."