Back in 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) called the promotional printing company, Hands On Originals, asking to purchase printed shirts promoting a local LGBT pride festival. Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals, declined because printing the shirts would conflict with his faith. 

Alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, GLSO filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission and then filed a lawsuit in a Kentucky trial court.

After seven years of legal battles, the Kentucky Supreme Court has handed Adamson his third victory in a unanimous opinion. 

After Adamson declined to print the shirts for GLSO, the organization filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission which ruled that Adamson must print messages that violate his faith. A legal battle ensued, and Adamson then won his case at the trial court, the appellate court and now at the Kentucky Supreme Court.

According to the court’s decision, the GLSO could not sue Adamson because the statute providing for lawsuits alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation requires an individual to bring the lawsuit, not an organization. “Only an individual – being a single human – can bring a discrimination claim,” the opinion read. 

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has represented Adamson for the last seven years pro bono, touted the victory in a press release.

“Today’s decision makes clear that this case never should have happened. For more than seven years, government officials used this case to turn Blaine’s life upside down, even though we told them from the beginning that the lawsuit didn’t comply with the city’s own legal requirements,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell in the press release.

Campbell continued, “The First Amendment protects Blaine’s right to continue serving all people while declining to print messages that violate his faith. Justice David Buckingham recognized this in his concurring opinion, and no member of the court disagreed with that.” 

In his concurring opinion, Justice Buckingham also emphasized how the Human Rights Commission had overstepped its boundaries. “I write separately to express my view that the facts of this case disclose that the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission went beyond its charge of preventing discrimination in public accommodation and instead attempted to compel Hands On to engage in expression with which it disagreed,” Buckingham wrote. 

There is a rampant problem across the country of human rights commissions overstepping their boundaries and intentionally punishing people of faith.

Remember that the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Human Rights Commission was decided in favor of Jack Phillips precisely because the commission had demonstrated unacceptable anti-religious bias against Jack.

Notably, Adamson serves everyone. He has “printed materials for a lesbian singer who performed at Lexington’s 2012 Pride Festival.” Adamson’s quibble is not with his potential customer’s sexual orientation, but with the message that he would communicate. 

In any case, it is extremely encouraging that the Kentucky Supreme Court saw through the commission’s charade, and upheld Adamson’s right to freely exercise his religion.

Let’s pray courts around the country continue to do the same.

The case is Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals

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Photo from Alliance Defending Freedom