FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky print shop owner who refused to make a gay pride T-shirt argued before the Kentucky Supreme Court that he shouldn’t be compelled to promote messages that go against his religious beliefs.
Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands-On Originals in Lexington, declined a T-shirt order from Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization for the city’s 2012 Gay Pride Festival. The design had the text “Lexington Pride Festival” wrapped around the number five, celebrating the event’s fifth year.
The city’s Human Rights Commission said Adamson’s refusal violated its gay-rights fairness ordinance.
On Friday, the high court heard an attorney for the T-shirt maker argue that the First Amendment protects Adamson from having to print that message. The Human Rights Commission argued the T-shirt maker cannot pick and choose who it wants to serve in the Lexington community.
“The purpose of the law is to remove the stigma of discrimination,” the commission’s lawyer, Edward Dove, told the court Friday.
The Supreme Court will issue a ruling at a later date.
Adamson said after the hearing with the high court that the T-shirt he was asked to print “goes against my conscience.”
“I will work with any person, no matter who they are and no matter what their belief systems are,” Adamson said. “But when I’m presented with a message that conflicts with my faith, that’s just something I cannot print, that’s the line for me.”
Ray Sexton, executive director of Lexington’s Human Rights Commission, said the high court will be making “a critical decision.”
“Can we use religion to legally discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity?” Sexton asked. He said a ruling against the commission could pave the way for businesses to discriminate on other grounds.
He said commissions across the country are facing similar questions about religious objections and he said Kentucky’s high court should provide some guidance.
The Human Rights Commission ordered Adamson in 2012 to print the shirts and attend diversity training. Adamson appealed and won rulings from the circuit court and state court of appeals. The appeals court said in 2017 the printing business was subject to the city’s fairness ordinance but nothing in that ordinance prohibits a private business “from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship.”