A civil rights commissioner has found that a Kentucky T-shirt company that refused to print shirts for a gay pride parade is guilty of discrimination, calling for its employees to attend diversity training — but the company likely won’t be backing down.
Greg Munson of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission announced last Tuesday that Hands on Originals, a T-shirt company based in Lexington, Kentucky, discriminated against the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington when it refused to print the shirts.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the gay rights group filed a complaint against Hands on Originals back in March 2012, alleging that it had been discriminated against due to sexual orientation.
Company owner Blaine Adamson has since argued that Hands on Originals is a Christian business and that the views espoused by the T-shirt — which advertised a gay pride festival — violated his religious beliefs.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal firm, has defended Adamson throughout the two-year legal process, with senior counsel Jim Campbell telling TheBlaze that the commission’s preliminary ruling isn’t definitively clear.
It reads, in part: “The Respondent’s refusal to provide goods and services of public accommodation to the Charging Party constitutes unlawful discrimination against the members of the [Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington] on the basis of sexual orientation and sexual identity in violation of Local Ordinance 201-99.”
Campbell said that local human rights commissions often times have “scattered, unclear rules.” At this point he said that Munson’s ruling will not officially stand until it is either adopted or modified by the full Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission.
“Once we do get a final decision of the commission we would have an opportunity to appeal,” Campbell told TheBlaze. “We are very likely to appeal.”
That said, the attorney was cautious to note, though, that without a final ruling from the commission, he couldn’t say with certainty what responsive actions would be taken.
As it currently stands, the recommended ruling from Munson demands that Hands on Originals take two specific actions.
“First is don’t [don't] discriminate against individuals because of gender identity or sexuality,” Campbell said. “If someone else from [Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington] comes to you for the pride festival, you have to [print again in the future if asked].”
The second demand is that Hands on Originals — a company with around 30 employees — would need to participate in diversity training within the next 12 months. While it’s unclear how many individuals from the company would be forced to attend, Campbell said that sending Adamson might be sufficient.
The lawyer did note that Hands on Originals has both employed and served gays and lesbians, but that when it comes to the messages present on products, Adamson draws a line.
“Blaine’s position is that he can’t print something if it conflicts with religious convictions,” Campbell said. “Over the two years leading up to this case, Hands on Originals had denied at least 13 orders all for the reason [that] they didn’t want to print and convey the message they were being asked to convey.”
He said that one of these orders was actually from a Christian organization — a T-shirt that had a blood design on it; Adamson felt that it was too racy, so he declined it.
“The issue here is really forcing Blaine Adamson to do something that conflicts with his deeply held convictions,” Campbell said. “He would print a shirt so long as its message wasn’t promoting an organization or any message he found in conflict in his faith.”
But while the Alliance Defending Freedom is decrying the decision, a statement from Raymond Sexton, executive director of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, takes a very different stance on the matter.
“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,” he said, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “If this was a case involving race, religion or national origin, there would be no debate on right or wrong.”