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Legal brief: Group dictating what T-shirt maker must print clueless about ordinance

Blaine Adamson

Blaine Adamson

The issue in a Lexington, Kentucky, lawsuit against a T-shirt printer that refused to promote same-sex marriage isn’t that the relevant ordinance is wrong; it’s that the local Human Rights Commission charged with enforcing the law doesn’t really understand it.

That’s the assertion of a brief filed with the Kentucky Supreme Court by the Alliance Defending Freedom in defense of the print shop, Hands On Originals.

The Lexington Pride Festival, run by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, sued Blaine Adamson and his T-shirt printing shop because he declined to promote same-sex marriage.

The LGBT group complained to the local HRC, which ordered Adamson to promote the LGBT message whether he wanted to or not.

Since then, several courts have ruled against the LGBT demands and in favor of Adamson’s freedom of speech, but the case now is before the state Supreme Court.

In its brief on behalf of Adamson, ADF begins with a statement of core principles:

“The right to decide what to say and what not to say – to choose which ideas to express – is core to human freedom. … It explains why most recoil at the thought of forcing a Democrat to make signs for a Republican politician, a gay man to create posters opposing same-sex marriage, a Jewish woman to make shirts celebrating German pride, or anyone to create flyers for a cause at odds with their conscience.

“And it establishes why the Lexgington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission cannot require Hands On Originals and its manager owner, Blaine Adamson, to print messages which conflict with their faith, including the shirts sought by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization.”

ADF said Lexington’s ordinance, when “properly interpreted, respects this freedom.”

“It bans discrimination because of an individual’s protected status. But it does not prohibit people like Adamson from declining to create speech with messages they deem objectionable.

“This status/message distinction resolves this case in HOO’s favor because while HOO will not print some messages, it serves all people.”

The legal team argued further: “What the commission demands is that Adamson create speech that he will not make for anyone, effectively entitling the customer to preferred (not equal) treatment and forcing Adamson to expand the services he offers. No reasonable reading of the ordinance requires that.”

The case is just one of many triggered by the Supreme Court’s creation of “same-sex marriage” in 2015. Ever since, wedding venues, photographers, video makers, bakers, calligraphers and others have been under attack by activists in the LGBT community.

One of the best-known cases is a lawsuit by Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips in Colorado, who refused to create a wedding cake for two homosexuals at a time when same-sex marriage was illegal in the state.

His case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, with a decision expected in the coming weeks.

The ADF brief explains that Adamson serves all customers alike, but does not create certain messages, regardless of who asks.

The company has rejected, in addition to promotion of homosexuality, requests for products promoting a strip club, containing a violent message and promoting a sexually explicit video.

“While HOO declines some orders for message-related reasons, it has never refused to work with anyone because of their sexual orientation or other protected characteristic,” the brief explains.

Adamson never knew the sexual orientation of the person trying to place the order, the brief says, but he objected to the message as a violation of his faith.

The LGBT group then publicized its disagreement with HOO and eventually complained to the HRC, which ordered Adamson to produce a message violating his faith.

Courts already have found there was no evidence HOO made its decision based on the sexual orientation of anyone and that the HRC order “violates the recognized constitutional rights of HOO and its owners to e free from compelled expression.”

“No one should be forced to express messages that conflict with their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell. “As we explain in our brief, Blaine serves all people. He simply declines to print messages that conflict with his faith. The law gives him and everyone else that freedom.”

ADF-allied attorney and co-counsel Bryan Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, of Lexington said his team is asking the Kentucky Supreme Court to affirm the First Amendment’s promise that everyone, including printers like Blaine, can decide for themselves the ideas and beliefs that they choose to express.”

“That’s a freedom that every American deserves.”



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