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Kentucky printer’s victory is victory for all

Hands On Originals files brief on appeal after winning trial court decision that affirmed its freedom.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Lexington printer have filed their brief with the Kentucky Court of Appeals after the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission appealed the printer’s expressive freedom victory at the trial court level. In addition, a number of groups with varying views on social issues have come together to file briefs defending not only this printer’s freedom, but also the freedom of other artistic and expressive professionals.

The commission ruled in 2014 that Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals must print messages that conflict with his faith on shirts that customers order from him. ADF attorneys appealed the ruling to the Fayette Circuit Court, which reversed the commission’s decision. The commission then appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals.

“Protecting Blaine’s freedom affirms everyone’s freedom, no matter the nature of their beliefs or convictions,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell. “The government shouldn’t be able to force citizens to create speech that conflicts with their deepest convictions, and the trial court’s decision rightly affirmed that.”

The trial court concluded that Adamson did not violate the law when he declined to print expressive shirts promoting the Lexington Pride Festival, hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization. Adamson regularly does business with and employs members of the LGBT community, so his decision was based not on any characteristic of the customer, but solely on Adamson’s constitutionally protected freedom to decline to convey a message with which he disagrees.

“That constitutional principle, at issue because Mr. Adamson declined to produce advocacy materials for the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO), protects all individuals, regardless of their beliefs,” the ADF brief in Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals explains. “It is thus no surprise that ‘a lesbian owned and operated t-shirt company…,’ and groups that ‘strongly support[]…gay rights…,’ have publicly supported HOO. For just as surely as the First Amendment protects HOO against the GLSO’s discrimination claim, it also forecloses a religious-discrimination claim against an LGBT printer who refuses to create materials that disparage gays and lesbians. Thus, a ruling for HOO upholds the freedom of all who are asked to produce expression that they consider objectionable.”

The court also received friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Hands On Originals from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (joined by constitutional scholar Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia Law School), The Cato Institute (joined by free-speech scholar Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law), the Sutherland Institute, and the American Center for Law and Justice.

Although Adamson declined to print the shirts because he did not want to convey the message that would be printed on them, he nevertheless offered to put the GLSO in touch with another printer that would produce the shirts. Unsatisfied, the GLSO filed a complaint with the commission despite eventually obtaining the shirts for free from another printer.

“The government has no good reason for overriding a person’s freedom to peacefully live out his beliefs,” added co-counsel Bryan Beauman with Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, of Lexington. “Everyone who contacts Blaine gets the expressive materials they’re looking for, because he will either create the expression for them or refer them to someone who will. It’s intolerant to insist that Blaine’s business must produce expression that violates his beliefs.”

  • 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.