Director, Commonwealth Policy Center


Ky Supreme Court Sides with Hands On Originals Over LGBT Rights Ordinance
Date: November 1, 2019
Contact: Richard Nelson (270) 719-1640

On Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of a Lexington graphic artist who declined to print T-shirts for a gay pride event. The court ruled that Lexington’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Ordinance (SOGI) was improperly applied since the plaintiff—Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) lacked standing.

“The court upheld First Amendment freedoms yesterday,” said Richard Nelson, executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center.  “This was a victory for freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and freedom to not be forced to convey messages one disagrees with.”

Justice David Buckingham wrote in a concurring opinion that “Hands On was in good faith objecting to the message it was being asked to disseminate.” He referenced a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that said “[w]hen speech is compelled…, individuals are coerced into betraying their convictions. Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning….”

The case originated in 2012 when Hands-On co-owner Blaine Adamson declined on religious grounds to fill a T-shirt order for the GLSO’s Lexington Pride Festival.  Even though the court dismissed the case on narrow grounds, it underscores the problematic nature of Lexington’s SOGI or “Fairness” ordinance.

Nelson believes the ruling should be a red flag to local governments pressured to pass related SOGI ordinances. “The laws have frequently been used to coerce and bully business owners who try to run their businesses according to their convictions,” Nelson said. “In Adamson’s case, the Lexington-Fayette Urban Human Rights Commission abused its authority and tried to compel Adamson to undergo diversity training because he believed his First Amendment rights protected him.”

Nelson said Kentucky communities want to avoid contention litigation and potentially large legal bills, they should reject any proposed SOGI laws. “The laws are unnecessary, divisive and could lead to costly legal bills for any community embracing the controversial ordinances,” Nelson said.