First Amendment

LGBT group taking gay pride T-shirt case to state Supreme Court

Perry Chiaramonte

Critics of a Kentucky appellate court’s decision allowing a T-shirt printer to refuse the business of a LGBT organization on religious grounds have decided to file a legal appeal of the action to the state’s highest court.

The Lexington Human Rights Commission’s decision Monday follows the group’s second consecutive legal defeat in its battle with Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals, a T-shirt company. In 2012, Adamson refused a LGBT group’s request to make T-shirts promoting a gay pride festival because doing so would violate his Christian beliefs.

After the Lexington Human Rights Commission (LHRC) ruled that Adamson had violated the city’s fairness ordinance, he took the group to court and won. The LHRC then asked the Kentucky Court of Appeals to review the decision, and Friday it lost again in a 2-1 vote.

“We have 30 days to file [an appeal],” Raymond Sexton, the LHRC’s executive director said to Fox News.

“We were surprised and disappointed about the court’s decision. Last night, our board unanimously voted to file for a discretionary review. Our position remains the same, that is it was about the message being printed then Hands On Originals would have declined to do the work immediately. It wasn’t until they found out what event the shirts were for that they had a problem.”

“But when they present a message that conflicts with my religious beliefs, that’s not something that I can print. That’s the line for me.”

- Blaine Adamson

Adamson, who has been represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom with support from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said he never had any intention to be hostile to gays or refuse their business.

“I never thought living out my faith would be the cause of so much controversy,” Adamson said in a statement provided to Fox News. 

“People often ask me why I made that decision. Here is what I tell them: I will work with any person, no matter who they are, no matter what their belief systems are. But when they present a message that conflicts with my religious beliefs, that’s not something that I can print. That’s the line for me.”

The city’s fairness ordinance prohibits businesses that cater to the public from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation. The appellate court’s chief judge, Joy A. Kramer, wrote in the majority opinion that what Adamson objected to was spreading a gay group’s message of pride in their sexual orientation – not the fact that they were gay.

Adamson, who says that he has regularly employed and served LGBT individuals and serves everyone regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, says he feels vindicated but that he still may have to defend his right to free speech.

“In my case, thankfully the legal system has worked,” Adamson says. “[The court] found that I do not refuse to do business because of who people are, but because of the messages that I’m asked to print. We’re so grateful for that ruling. But that decision is not set in stone.”

Adamson maintains his belief that religious liberty is the first and most important freedom.

“As I have gone through this process, I have often marveled that something like this can actually occur in America. This is not the way it should be,” he says.

“But you’re not free if your beliefs are confined to your mind. Everyone in world history under every sort of government regime has been ‘free to believe’ in their mind. What makes America unique is our freedom to peacefully live out those beliefs.”

Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych