Supreme Court sides with anti-gay print shop owner who refused to make Pride t-shirt

Printer who refused to make Pride t-shirt says he shouldn't have to promote message against his beliefs

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the owner of a print shop who refused to make a Pride t-shirt because it was against his religious beliefs.

Blaine Adamson is the owner of Hands-On Originals in Lexington, Kentucky. In 2012 he declined to print t-shirts promoting a local Pride event, saying: “It goes against my conscience.”

A Hands-On Originals staff member told LEX 18: “I will work with anyone no matter… but when I am conflicted with a message… I don’t leave my faith at the door.”

Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organisation filed a complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission, and Adamson was ordered to print the shirts and attend diversity training.

He appealed and the original ruling was overturned. The Human Rights Commission appealed that ruling in turn and the case has been dragging on for years, finally landing in the state’s highest court in August 2019.

Adamson’s attorney argued that the First Amendment means he doesn’t have to print messages he disagrees with, according to NBC News. The Human Rights Commission countered that Adamson could not pick and choose which members of the community he was willing to serve.

On Thursday, October 31, the state’s high court dismissed the case and ruled that the advocacy group lacked standing to make a claim against Adamson because the city’s gay rights law was written to protect individuals.

Will there be other businesses that feel like they can deny services because of this, because of this ruling?

“Because an ‘individual’ did not file the claim, but rather an organisation did, we would have to determine whether the organisation is a member of the protected class, which we find impossible to ascertain,” the justices wrote in their 11-page ruling.

“While this result is no doubt disappointing to many interested in this case and its potential outcome, the fact that the wrong party filed the complaint makes the discrimination analysis almost impossible to conduct, including issues related to freedom of expression and religion.”

Carmen Wampler-Collins, the executive director of the Lexington Pride Centre, is concerned that the ruling could have a broad impact on the local LGBT+ 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,” she said.