Law & the Courts

Kentucky Supreme Court Tosses Suit against Designer that Refused to Print Gay Pride T-Shirts

Rainbow flags at a Gay Pride parade in New York City, 2007. (Chip East/Reuters)

Kentucky’s Supreme Court on Thursday threw out a lawsuit against a print shop owner who refused to make an LGBT Pride T-shirt because doing so would violate his conscience.

The high court ruled that the plaintiff, Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, lacked standing in the case since the city’s gay rights law is meant to protect individuals rather than activist groups.

“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,” the court’s decision read.

Hands-On Originals co-owner Blaine Adamson, who is Christian, refused to fill an order from the advocacy group to print a design on T-shirts that would have read, “Lexington Pride Festival” for Lexington’s 2012 Gay Pride Festival, saying the design “goes against my conscience.”

The city’s Human Rights Commission originally ordered Adamson to fill the t-shirt order and participate in diversity training, but he appealed the decision. Two lower state courts, the circuit court and state court of appeals, also ruled in favor of the print shop.

Justice David Buckingham penned a concurring opinion for the court that took the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization to task for going “beyond its charge of preventing discrimination in public accommodation and instead attempt(ing) to compel Hands On to engage in expression with which it disagreed.”

Adamson’s lawyers praised Thursday’s decision.

“Today’s decision makes clear that this case never should have happened,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Jim Campbell said.

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