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Free to speak or not speak? That is the question in Ky. printer case

ADF files appeal on behalf of Lexington printer in lawsuit with potential ramifications for all business owners

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Alliance Defending Freedom filed an appeal in state court Monday on behalf of a Lexington-area printer being forced by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission to promote messages that conflict with his deepest beliefs.

On Nov. 19, the commission adopted a hearing examiner’s conclusion that printer Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals violated a local ordinance against sexual-orientation discrimination when he declined to print shirts promoting the Lexington Pride Festival, even though he regularly does business with and employs people who identify as homosexual. A representative of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, which filed the original complaint against Adamson, agreed with ADF attorneys during a hearing that this type of ruling will also force printers who identify as homosexual to print materials expressing messages they find objectionable.

“No one should be forced by the government to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree. Laws that do that are fundamentally unjust,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jim Campbell, who argued before the hearing examiner on behalf of Hands On Originals in June. “We are appealing the commission’s decision because the First Amendment protects the freedom of every American to decline to speak on any issue without fear of punishment. Blaine declined the request to print these particular shirts not because of any characteristic of the people who asked for them, but because of the message that the shirts would communicate.”

“‘At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that each person’ – including for-profit businesses and their owners – ‘should decide for [themselves] the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression…,’” explains the ADF complaint in Hands On Originals v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, quoting a 2013 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. “Yet the Commission’s Order impermissibly empowers groups like the GLSO (backed by the coercive force of the public-accommodations ordinance) to determine for business owners like Mr. Adamson ‘the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression.’”

“The Commission’s Order threatens to force those individuals to give up their livelihood simply because they cannot in good conscience promote messages that they consider objectionable,” the brief continues. “That, in turn, jeopardizes the stability of their families and the financial well-being of their employees. To rectify this profound injustice…, this Court should reverse the Commission’s Order.”

“In America, we don’t force people to express messages that are contrary to their convictions,” added Hands On Originals’ co-counsel Bryan Beauman with Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, of Lexington. “America should not be a place where people who identify as homosexual are forced to promote groups like the Westboro Baptists and where printers with sincere religious convictions are forced to promote the message of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Beauman (BOH’-min)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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Jim Campbell
Jim Campbell
Chief Legal Counsel
Jim Campbell serves as chief legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he leads the U.S. Legal Advocacy team.