Kentucky Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Christian T-Shirt Shop, Rejects LGBT Claim

Kharen Martinez Murcia | November 8, 2019 | 2:01pm EST
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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

On Nov. 1, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in favor of Christian print-shop owner Blaine Adamson, who was sued for refusing to print “gay-pride” T-shirts for the Lexington Pride Festival.  

According to the opinion of the court, written by Justice Laurance B. VanMeter, “[T]his matter must be dismissed because the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO,) the original party to bring this action before the Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, lacked statutory standing to assert a claim against Hands On Originals under the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government.”

The court ruled (6-0) that GLSO had no standing because under discrimination law in Kentucky, such claims can only be filed by individuals and not organizations. GLSO lost at the initial trial, the appeals court and now at the supreme court. 

The case was filed in 2012, when the GLSO, a pro-LGBT group,  requested that Adamson’s business, Hands On Originals, print T-shirts with a message that Adamson says conflicted with his beliefs. The message was, “Lexington Pride Festival 5,” in reference to the 5th anniversary of the city’s gay “pride” event.

Adamson declined the request and directed the GLSO to another local business that would print the T-shirts for the same price. The GLSO ultimately got the T-shirts from the other company free of charge. 

“Blaine serves everyone, he just doesn’t print all messages,” said Jim Campbell, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Adamson.

“In fact, Blaine has printed materials for a lesbian musician who performed at Lexington’s 2012 Pride Festival,” said Campbell.

“It’s all about the message that Blaine is asked to print; he’s not concerned with the person who requests it,” Campbell said. “Upholding Blaine’s rights protects freedom of speech for everyone.”

According to Kentucky Supreme Court Justice David Buckingham,  there were three “essentials” that explain why the court sided with Adamson. First, Hands On had a precedent of declining orders based on the message regardless of who placed the order. 

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The second point was that Hands On Originals had previously accepted the request to print shirts for a lesbian singer; and third, Adamson did not know the sexual orientation of the person who requested the order on behalf of the GLSO. 

“These facts indicate that Hands On was in good faith objecting to the message it was being asked to disseminate,” Buckingham said. 

According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, this case adds to a line of similar cases instigated  by LGBTQ activists that advocate for same-sex marriage, and it is fundamental to preserving people’s First Amendment rights.

“Today’s decision makes clear that this case never should have happened,” said Campbell. “For more than seven years, government officials used this case to turn Blaine’s life upside down, even though we told them from the beginning that the lawsuit didn’t comply with the city’s own legal requirements.”

“The First Amendment protects Blaine’s right to continue serving all people while declining to print messages that violate his faith,” said Campbell.

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