Kentucky Christian Printer Fights Back Against Discrimination Charge for Refusal to Print Gay Pride T-Shirts

( [email protected] ) Dec 12, 2014 12:13 PM EST
Hands On Originals
Hands On Originals is a Christian t-shirt shop that has come under fire for refusing to print a gay pride slogan. Photo: Hands On Originals website

A Christian printer is fighting back after being convicted of sexual-orientation discrimination for not printing t-shirts promoting a gay pride parade in Kentucky.

Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals was originally found guilty of violating a Lexington non-discrimination ordinance in 2012. Adamson refused to print t-shirts for the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization with a gay rights slogan that went against his own religious beliefs, but as the Alliance Defending Freedom points out, enforcing the reverse situation -- where a gay-owned printing company would refuse to print a slogan that they disagreed with -- would go against the First Amendment, so it should carry over both ways.

"No one should be forced by the government to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree. Laws that do that are fundamentally unjust," senior legal counsel Jim Campbell said in a statement on the ADF website. "We are appealing the commission's decision because the First Amendment protects the freedom of every American to decline to speak on any issue without fear of punishment."

At the time of refusal, Adamson offered to connect the organization with another printer that would do the t-shirts for the same price, but the organization refused. Adamson has already said that he wasn't personally opposed to the individuals making the printing request, but against the message itself, which is within his rights as a private business owner and artist.

"The idea is that when you own your own business, it's your own art and creation - it's very personal ... it takes a long time to build a business," Kathy Trautvetter, a lesbian print shop owner, said on the Glenn Beck Program when asked about her view of the situation as a lesbian woman and a small business owner. "When someone wants to force you to go against it - that's what stuck me right in the heart. I really felt for Blaine."

"In America, we don't force people to express messages that are contrary to their convictions," Adamson's co-counsel Bryan Beauman added. "America should not be a place where people who identify as homosexual are forced to promote groups like the Westboro Baptists and where printers with sincere religious convictions are forced to promote the message of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization."

"'At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that each person' - including for-profit businesses and their owners - 'should decide for [themselves] the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression...,'" explains the ADF complaint in Hands On Originals v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, quoting a 2013 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. "Yet the Commission's Order impermissibly empowers groups like the GLSO (backed by the coercive force of the public-accommodations ordinance) to determine for business owners like Mr. Adamson 'the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression.'" 

Adamson is currently appealing the court decision that he and his employees (some of whom are actually gay and lesbian, according to reports) attend "diversity training."

But Trauvetter doesn't agree with that tactic. "To me, it's like you can't force acceptance, you have to gain acceptance."