A chief justice with the Kentucky Supreme Court has ordered a review on the case between the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission (HRC) and a Christian screen printer who refused to print T-shirts for a gay pride festival.
Chief Justice John Minton, Jr. granted an appeal on the case after a disagreement on a decision between Kentucky's Court of Appeals judges.
The commission had filed a suit against "Hands-On Originals" printing, a company that identifies as "Christian outfitters" and providers of "Christian apparel," after manager Blaine Adamson declined to print an order from the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington (GLSO), citing his religious beliefs.
According to Courier Journal, the HRC contended that Adamson violated Lexington's fairness ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sexual identity.
Adamson had stated in 2016 that he cannot print messages that are contrary to the word of God. "I want God to find joy in what we do and how we work, how we treat our employees, and the messages we print," he said.
"So if someone walks in and says, 'Hey, I want you to help promote something,' I can't promote something that I know goes against what pleases Him," he added.
This past May, the Kentucky Court of Appeals voted 2–1 in favor of the Christian screen printer, arguing that nothing in the city's fairness ordinance prohibits Hands-On Originals from "engaging in viewpoint or message censorship."
Court of Appeals Judge Jeff S. Taylor disagreed with the decision and contended that Adamson had indeed violated the fairness ordinance.
The appellate court's decision upheld a previous ruling by Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael, which also disputed the commission's findings.
The Fayette Circuit Court had noted that Hands On Originals regularly does business with homosexuals, so the decision to reject GLSO's order was not based on any person's sexuality, but rather the message that was supposed to be conveyed in the t-shirts. The court further noted that Hands On Originals had declined 13 orders from various groups between 2010 and 2012 because it did not agree with the message that was to be printed.
"Those print orders that were refused by HOO included shirts promoting a strip club, pens promoting a sexually explicit video and shirts containing a violence-related message," the court stated in the ruling.
"There is further evidence in the Commission record that it is standard practice within the promotional printing industry to decline to print materials containing messages that the owners do not want to support," it continued.
The case mirrors a 2012 lawsuit involving Denver baker Jack Phillips who is preparing for a hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court this week. The Kentucky Supreme Court is yet to set a date for the hearing on the Adamson's case.
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