Becket Defends Christian Printer Ordered to Print Shirts for Gay Pride Festival

Christian owner also ordered to attend government-mandated “diversity training”

For Immediate Release: October 29, 2015
Media Contact: Melinda Skea, mskea@becketfund.org, 202-349-7224

registering an acetate screen print

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, law firms and scholars came to the defense of Blaine Adamson, the owner of a small printing company, who has been ordered by the government to print shirts promoting a gay pride festival and to attend government-mandated “diversity training.” Among his supporters are LGBT-owned businesses such as BMP T-Shirts as well as the Becket Fund, renowned scholar and University of Virginia Law Professor Douglas Laycock, and Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLCS, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Mr. Adamson’s defense.

“Americans disagree about sex and religion. That’s nothing new. But this case is about whether the government will allow people who disagree to live side-by-side in peace, or whether the government will instead pick one ‘correct’ moral view and force everyone to conform,” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Fortunately, the Supreme Court has already resolved this question and held that the government can’t force people to promote views they disagree with.”

“Both same-sex couples, and religious believers committed to traditional understandings of sexuality, have faced hostile regulation that condemns their most cherished commitments as evil,” said Professor Douglas Laycock, Professor of Law at the University of Virginia. “The American solution to this conflict is to protect the freedom of both sides—not punish the side that dissents.”

Blaine Adamson owns Hands On Originals, a small, closely-held printing company in Lexington, Kentucky. Mr. Adamson regularly employs and serves LGBT individuals, and he has never turned away any customer because of their race, sex, or sexual orientation. But in accordance with standard industry practice, Mr. Adamson does not print messages that contradict his core beliefs. For example, just as pro-choice printers have declined to print pro-life messages, and LGBT printers have declined to print anti-gay messages, Mr. Adamson has declined to print messages promoting a strip club, sexually explicit videos, and violence.

In 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) asked Mr. Adamson to print shirts promoting the local Pride Festival. Because Mr. Adamson believes that sex is designed for traditional marriage, and because the Pride Festival promotes a contradictory view, Mr. Adamson could not in good conscience print the shirts. Instead, he offered to refer GLSO to other printers who would match his price. GLSO received many offers to print the shirts and ultimately obtained them for free. Nevertheless, GLSO filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, which has now ordered Mr. Adamson to print shirts in violation of his religious beliefs and to attend government-mandated “diversity training.”

A Kentucky Circuit Court ruled in favor of Mr. Adamson, concluding that forcing him to print messages in violation of his religious beliefs would violate both the Free Speech Clause and the Kentucky Religious Freedom Act. But the Human Rights Commission has now appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

“Just as a pro-choice printer has a right to decline to print a religious message attacking Planned Parenthood, and a gay photographer has a right to decline to photograph a religious anti-gay rally, a Christian printer has a right to decline to print messages that violate his beliefs,” said Goodrich. “The right of free speech protects everyone, and it means that the government doesn’t get to force anyone to say things that contradict their deeply held beliefs.”

Several LGBT-owned businesses, such as BMP T-Shirts, have been publicly supportive of Mr. Adamson’s free speech rights:

“No one should be forced to do something against what they believe in. If we were approached by an organization such as the Westboro Baptist Church, I highly doubt we would be doing business with them, and we would be very angry if we were forced to print anti-gay t-shirts,” said Diane DiGeloromo, one owner of BMP T-shirts, a lesbian-owned business. “This isn’t a gay or straight issue. This is a human issue.”

Her business partner, Kathy Trautvertter, added, “You put your blood and your sweat and your tears into [your business]” and “it’s very personal. . . . When I put myself in [Mr. Adamson’s] shoes, I could see it from his side.”

Mr. Adamson is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. The Becket Fund, Professor Laycock, and Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLCS will continue supporting his free speech and religious freedom rights.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket Fund attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at mskea@becketfund.org or 202.349.7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling inBurwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings inHolt v. HobbsandHosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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*Photo Credit: “Register a screen print using acetate” by Scrud123 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons