NewsCovering Kentucky


KY Supreme Court sides with Lexington shop in pride shirt dispute

Posted at 2:28 PM, Oct 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 07:51:27-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of a Lexington business that refused to print a T-shirt for the city's pride festival in 2012.

Hands On Originals, a T-shirt printing business in Lexington, refused to print the shirt because one of the owners, Blaine Adamson, said the message conflicted with his religious beliefs.

The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, the group that wanted the shirts for its annual pride festival, filed a complaint with the Lexington Human Rights Commission, which concluded the shop had violated the city's public accommodation ordinance.

But Thursday's Supreme Court decision written by Justice Laurance B. VanMeter agreed with a lower court's ruling that the HRC lacked "statutory standing" to bring the suit, largely because it is an organization and not an individual.

A concurring Justice David C. Buckingham went further, saying the HRC "went beyond its charge of preventing discrimination in public accommodation and instead attempted to compel Hands On to engage in expression with which it disagreed."

The ruling left unresolved larger issues of the rights of business owners and members of minority groups.

An official with Hands On Originals told LEX 18 earlier this year that, "I will work with anyone no matter ... but when I am conflicted with a message ... I don't leave my faith at the door."

The executive director of the Lexington Pride Center says the issue is about more than just religion.

"Here at the Pride Center, we have lots of people of faith. And we would never aim to tell someone what to believe in or how to practice their faith. But when you're offering a public service, the issue becomes, then, you have a religious exemption not to serve someone, who is a minority. That's what's not OK. That's what's not fair. It just sends a really negative message to our community. It's hard, it's disappointing," said Carmen Wampler-Collins.

The center also says that the Supreme Court's ruling could have a negative impact on the LGBTQ community.

"Will there be other businesses that feel like they can deny services because of this, because of this ruling? That could mean, not just not printing T-shirts for Pride Festival, but LGBTQ not having access to healthcare or housing," Wampler-Collins said.

Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Hands On Originals in the lawsuit, say that simply isn't true.

"This case simply made clear that this lawsuit against Hands On Originals was not a legitimate lawsuit. And so it leaves for another day, and issues to be decided and many of those issues are before the U.S. Supreme Court," Jim Campbell said.

Read the full ruling here.