Sometimes there’s a nugget of something good in the daily ration of bad news. A T-shirt printer in Lexington, Ky., one Blaine Adamson, won a state court ruling early this month that he was within his First Amendment rights to refuse to print an offensive message on T-shirts ordered by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization for a “gay pride” parade.
The court overturned a ruling by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission that Mr. Adamson’s firm, called Hands On Originals Christian Outfitters, violated a city ordinance barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Writing for the court majority, Chief Judge Joy Kramer agreed that the ordinance prohibits such discrimination, but discrimination was not at issue. Objecting to being compelled to propagate a message Mr. Adamson finds odious is not the same as refusing to serve the group because of the sexual orientation of its members.
“The right of free speech does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else’s property,” Judge Kramer wrote. ” The ‘conduct’ [that] Hands On Originals chose not to promote was pure speech. Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits Hands On Originals, a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship.”
Indeed, Mr. Adamson said he’s willing to print LGBT T-shirts as long as the message he is asked to print on them does not promote homosexuality. Hands On Originals prints messages on mugs, pens and other things as well as T-shirts. Mr. Adamson has in the past declined printing jobs for a strip joint and for pens promoting a sexually explicit video.
The Kentucky ruling runs contrary to similar cases in Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico and elsewhere, in which Christian bakers, photographers and florists were penalized for exercising religious beliefs in refusing to participate in same-sex weddings.
The Kentucky ruling should encourage Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop of Lakewood, Colo., who has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a 2013 ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, upheld by state courts, to punish him for refusing, for religious reasons to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding reception.
The high court has avoided taking the Phillips appeal for months while the court lacked a ninth justice in the wake of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. With the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as the ninth justice, the high court is now fully manned and ready for business.