US Judge: Christian printer free to refuse gay pride order

A judge in Kentucky has ruled in favour of a Christian-owned company which declined to print gay pride T-shirts, saying the refusal was based on the message being promoted not the sexual orientation of the customer.

The ruling overturns a decision made last year by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission that Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals (HOO) acted unlawfully by turning down the order.

The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) asked HOO to print T-shirts for its Pride Festival in 2012.

Promote the message

Adamson, who co-owns HOO based in the Lexington-Fayette area of Kentucky, declined the order because he did not want to promote the message of the event.

Religious liberty organisation Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who represented Adamson, appealed to Fayette Circuit Court, which has now overturned the Human Rights Commission’s earlier ruling.

Judge James Ishmael said in his decision: “In short, HOO’s declination to print the shirts was based upon the message of GLSO and the Pride Festival and not on the sexual orientation of its representatives or members.”

Free speech rights

He noted that the sexual orientation of the customer was never “divulged or played any part in this case”.

ADF lawyer Jim Campbell commented: “The government can’t force citizens to surrender free-speech rights or religious freedom in order to run a small business, and this decision affirms that”.

“The court rightly recognized that the law protects Blaine’s decision not to print shirts with messages that conflict with his beliefs, and that no sufficient reason exists for the government to coerce Blaine to act against his conscience in this way”, he added.

Discrimination laws

Ray Sexton, Executive Director of the Lexington Human Rights Commission, said that it was likely to appeal the ruling.

In Northern Ireland, an equality quango took a Christian-run bakery to court, claiming they broke discrimination laws by declining to decorate a pro-gay marriage campaign cake last year.

During the three-day court hearing, the owners of Ashers Baking Company said they simply did not want to endorse a message with which they disagreed.

The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund is backing the bakery’s case. The judgment is due to be given in open court on Thursday 7 May. **UPDATE – court date moved to Tuesday 19 May.**

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