Court sides with company that refused to print Pride t-shirts

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

An appeals court has ruled that a business did not discriminate against a Pride march by refusing to make t-shirts for the event.

In her opinion, Chief Judge Joy Kramer wrote that the city of Lexington, Kentucky’s anti-discrimination ordinance did not protect the city’s Pride march organisers from discrimination by Hands On Originals.

She wrote that the law does not stop the company from “engaging in viewpoint or message censorship.”

Pride flag

The judge went on to say that the business had objected to the concept of Pride, and its message, not the sexual orientation of an individual.

“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,” the ruling states.

A judge on the panel dissented, saying the business did discriminate because its objection to Pride was “based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Attorneys for a t-shirt printing company which refused to print Pride t-shirts back in 2012, last year argued that it does not constitute discrimination.

A lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, Jim Campbell, argued that the owners of Hands on Originals in Lexington, Kentucky, objected to printing the 2012 Lexington Pride Festival t-shirt, but that they do not discriminate against gay people.

He compared printing Pride t-shirts to printing messages about illegal drug use, porn or violence.

He told the Kentucky Court of Appeals: “The record shows that they have declined over the years to promote messages that promote illegal drug use or strip clubs or pornographic movies or violent messages.”

“Hands on Originals declined to print the shirts in question because of the messages on them, not the sexual orientation of the individuals who asked for them.”

But a lawyer for the Human Rights Commission in Lexington in December argued that it is not possible to separate the message on the t-shirt from the discrimination.

Ed Dove said: “At what point does this message stop?… You can’t separate the message from the discrimination. That’s a red herring.”

The Human Rights Commission in Lexington, Kentucky back in 2012 sided with organisers of a Pride event, who were refused service by the Christian t-shirt printing company, because of its religious beliefs.

Hands On Originals, a t-shirt printing company, refused to print apparel for the Gay and Lesbian Services Organisation, ahead of the city’s parade.

The managing owner of Hands On, Blaine Adamson, had said he refused to complete the order from the GLSO because it is a Christian company, and doing so would have gone against his beliefs, reported He said:  “Due to the promotional nature of our products, it is the prerogative of the company to refuse any order that would endorse positions that conflict with the convictions of the ownership.”

This week a lesbian shop worker hit out at big brands selling t-shirts with the word “femme” on them.