In 2012, a Christian-owned business in Lexington, Kentucky called Hands On Originals turned down a request from a local LGBT organization wanting a shirt advertising an upcoming gay pride festival.
All the predictable lawsuits and boycotts ensued, and on Friday, the Kentucky Court of Appeals rendered their opinion.
They ruled in favor of the business.
Their 2-1 opinion actually upheld an earlier decision by Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael. He opined that the business did not violate the city’s fairness ordinance. From the Lexington Herald Leader:
“Because of my Christian beliefs, I can’t promote that,” owner Blaine Adamson told a Human Rights Commission hearing officer. “Specifically, it’s the Lexington Pride Festival, the name and that it’s advocating pride in being gay and being homosexual, and I can’t promote that message. It’s something that goes against my belief system.”
In 2012, the Human Rights Commission said that service refusal violated the city’s fairness ordinance, part of which prohibits businesses which are open to the public from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation.
However, the Court of Appeals disagreed on Friday, ruling that speech is not necessarily protected under the fairness ordinance.
While the ordinance does protect gays and lesbians from discrimination because of their sexual orientation, what Hands On Originals objected to was spreading the gay rights group’s message, Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer wrote in the majority opinion. That is different than refusing to serve the group because of the sexual behavior of its individual members, she wrote. A Christian who owns a printing company should not be compelled to spread a group’s message if he disagrees with it, Kramer wrote.
“The right of free speech does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else’s property,” Kramer wrote.
“In other words, the ‘service’ Hands On Originals offers is the promotion of messages. The ‘conduct’ Hands On Originals chose not to promote was pure speech. There is no contention that Hands On Originals is a public forum in addition to a public accommodation. Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits Hands On Originals, a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship.”
In an interview, Adamson said that he would have no problem serving a gay or lesbian customer. What he would object to is putting a message on a shirt that violated his personal convictions. And that goes for any customer.
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