The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission will ask the Kentucky Supreme Court to review last week’s appeals court decision that supported Hands On Originals’ right to refuse to print gay pride T-shirts, the commission’s executive director, Ray Sexton, said Tuesday.
The Human Rights Commission’s board of directors voted unanimously Monday to ask the state’s high court for discretionary review of the Kentucky Court of Appeals decision, which upheld an earlier ruling for Hands On Originals by Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael.
In 2012, Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization asked Hands On Originals to print T-shirts for the Lexington Pride Festival. Blaine Adamson, the business’s managing owner, refused to take the order, saying he had religious objections to “pride in being gay.”
The Human Rights Commission found the business to be in violation of the city’s fairness ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. But that finding was rejected by the circuit court and the appeals court.
In a 2-to-1 decision last week, the court of appeals said Hands On Originals did not violate the fairness ordinance because it did not refuse to serve people based on their sexual orientation. Rather, it would not allow its private presses to be used to spread the “message” of gay pride, which is a defensible position, the court ruled.
“The right of free speech does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else’s property,” Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits Hands On Originals, a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship.”
In his dissenting opinion, Court of Appeals Judge Jeff S. Taylor said fairness ordinances like Lexington’s “would have limited or no force or effect” unless they protect the free-speech rights of minority groups in the marketplace. If gays and lesbians are not able to “publicly display their same-gender orientation,” then they’re not being treated fairly, Taylor wrote.