Hands On Originals Wins……..Again.

We’ve covered the case of Lexington, Kentucky printer Hands On Originals before here and here.

The Cliff Notes version of this case is rather simple.

In 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) sought quotes for tee-shirts for a Gay Pride Festival. The organizing committee called various shops asking for quotes based on a tee shirt with printing on the front and back of the shirt.

Hands on Original was the lowest bidder for the shirts. The GLSO then called Blaine Adamson, the owner of Hands On Originals in an attempt to negotiate a lower price for the tee-shirts. At this time, the caller identified the group he was representing and the fact that the message on the tee-shirts was to promote a gay pride festival and parade.

Adamson declined to print the tee-shirts as the message was against the company’s beliefs.

One of the important things to note here is that Adamson did not decline to print the tee-shirts because of the sexual orientation of the group, but the message the group wanted on the shirts.

In 2014, the GLSO filed a complaint with the the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission which found that Hands on Originals had discriminated against the GLSO.

Hands on Originals appealed that decision and in 2015, Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael ruled that the Human Rights Commission had violated the First Amendment in trying to compel Hands On Originals to engage in expression with which it disagreed. The Judge also ruled that the Commission’s decision violated Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act which in part protects people from being compelled to act against their religious beliefs.

That decision was appealed and in 2017, the Court of Appeals once again ruled in favor of Hands on Originals for basically the same reasons the lower court had ruled.

While it sounds like we are repeating ourselves, the Appeals Court decision was appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court which again found that Hands on Originals had not discriminated on the basis of any protected class of citizens, but had declined to print the shirts based on the message.

Justice David Buckingham wrote the Human Rights Commission “went beyond its charge of preventing discrimination” and later tried to “compel Hands On to engage in expression with which it disagreed.”

Justice Buckingham also argued laws surrounding free speech are under strict scrutiny, but “when expression is involved … ‘a publisher may discriminate on the basis of content’ even if that content relates to a protected classification.”

The record discloses three essential facts, which are conceded by the Commission: First, Hands On has an established practice of declining orders because of what Hands On perceives to be their morally-objectionable messages, no matter who requested them.

In the two years preceding the hearing in this case, Hands On declined thirteen orders on the basis that it believed the designs to be offensive or inappropriate, including refusal to print shirts promoting adult entertainment establishments, pens promoting a sexually explicit video, and shirts containing a violence-related message.

Second, Hands On accepted and completed an order from a lesbian singer who performed at the 2012 Pride Festival.

Third, at no time did Hands On inquire or know the sexual orientation or gender identity of the persons with who it dealt on behalf of GLSO.

These facts indicate that Hands On was in good father objecting to the message it was being asked to disseminate.

“Today’s decision makes clear that this case never should have happened,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Jim Campbell, who argued before the state supreme court on behalf of Adamson and Hands On.

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

The Kentucky Court Supreme Court decision can be found here.

Kudos to the Alliance Defending Freedom for taking this case on and winning it. As the ADF says on their webpage dealing with this case:

If the government can force Blaine to support messages that violate his deeply held beliefs, then it can force anyone to do the same. This includes an LGBT printer who declines to create t-shirts criticizing same-sex marriage, a Democratic speechwriter who declines to write speeches for the Republican National Convention, or a Muslim singer who declines to sing Christian songs at a concert.

Protecting these freedoms is vital to us all. Because if we want freedom for ourselves, we must extend it to others—even those with whom we disagree.

We agree.

People need to remember and realize that if the government can tell you what you must say, it follows that the government can tell you what you can’t say, which means that the government – not you – is arbitrator of your thoughts, ideas and expression.

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