Hands On Originals discriminated against the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington when it refused to print the group's Lexington Pride Festival T-shirts in 2012, according to a hearing officer in the case.
Greg Munson issued his decision Monday. The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission released it Tuesday morning.
"The evidence of record shows that the respondent discriminated against GLSO because of its members' actual or imputed sexual orientation by refusing to print and sell to them the official shirts for the 2012 Lexington Pride Festival."
Munson wrote that the application of the Fairness Ordinance did not violate the T-shirt vendor's right to free speech and the free exercise of religion. The Human Rights Commission found in 2012 that Hands On Originals violated the city's fairness ordinance, which prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation. Nonetheless, the hearing process continued over two more years.
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Hands On Originals contended that it declined the T-shirt order because it is a Christian company and disagreed with the message of the shirt. The shirt was a stylized numeral 5 on the front. On the back was "Lexington Pride Festival" and a list of sponsors of the gay pride event.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona group defending Hands On Originals, released a statement announcing its disappointment with the ruling, which it said would also require printers to do business with controversial groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church, which is known for its extreme ideologies, especially against gay people.
"No one should be forced by the government — or by another citizen — to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jim Campbell, who argued before the hearing examiner on behalf of Hands On Originals on June 19.
"Blaine (Adamson, of Hands On Originals) declined the request to print the shirts not because of any characteristic of the people who asked for them, but because of the message that the shirts would communicate."
In the statement, Hands On Originals' co-counsel Bryan Beauman, with the Lexington firm of Sturgill, Turner, Barker and Moloney, said, "No one wants to live in that kind of America — a place where people who identify as homosexual are forced to promote the Westboro Baptists and where printers with sincere religious convictions are forced to promote the message of the GLSO. ... In America, we don't force people to express messages that are contrary to their convictions."
Raymond Sexton, executive director of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, said the case went on for two years because of the volume of evidence and the high number of depositions to be taken.
Sexton said in a statement that the ruling is a landmark for Lexington's Fairness Ordinance. "If you're going to do business in Lexington, you must make your goods and services accessible to everyone regardless of the protected classes, including sexual orientation and gender identity. ... If this was a case involving race, religion or national origin, there would be no debate on right or wrong."
The ruling also means that Hands On may not discriminate in the future, Sexton said, and that in the next year, its employees will have to undergo diversity training.