The Lexington, KY-based custom decorator, which specializes in Christian apparel and promotional products, would not comment on the court decision, referring media instead to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the religious freedom nonprofit that argued its case.
Three years ago, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) asked Hands On Originals (HOO) to print shirts for its pride festival. HOO turned the job down, and the GLSO filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, which ruled in favor of the GLSO.
On Monday, Judge James D. Ishmael of the Fayette Circuit Court reversed the decision, citing Kentucky’s religious freedom statute and noting that HOO’s case was not about “insuring citizens have equal access to services.” Rather than refusing customers because of their sexual orientation, Ishmael wrote, HOO owner Blaine Adamson objected to the T-shirt because of its message.
“It is clear beyond dispute that HOO and its owners declined to print the T-shirts in question because of the message advocating sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman,” Ishmael wrote. “The well-established Constitutional rights of HOO and its owners on this issue are well settled.” He pointed out that HOO had turned down orders for strip clubs and shirts with violent messages in the past as well. Hands On Originals states on its website its right to refuse “any order that would endorse positions that conflict with the convictions of the ownership.”
Representatives from the ADF said they were pleased with the court’s ruling. “The government can’t force citizens to surrender free-speech rights or religious freedom in order to run a small business, and this decision affirms that,” said Jim Campbell, senior legal counsel for the ADF, in a press release.
The GLSO expressed disappointment with the court on its website: “We feel that this is a reminder that there are still many out there who feel that their citizenship is worth more than that of members of the LGBTQ+ community.” Officials close to the case believe an appeal is likely.