Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Description:  Lexington, Ky., printer Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals declined to print expressive shirts promoting the Lexington Pride Festival, hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, because he did not want to convey the messages printed on the shirts. He nevertheless offered to connect the organization to another printer that would produce the shirts for the same price that he would have charged. Unsatisfied, GLSO filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission and alleged illegal discrimination despite eventually obtaining the shirts for free from another printer.

Lexington printer to Kentucky Supreme Court: Uphold expressive freedom

ADF attorneys file opening brief on behalf of Hands On Originals
Monday, April 09, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed their brief Tuesday with the Kentucky Supreme Court on behalf of a Lexington promotional printer who wishes to operate his business consistent with his faith.

In October of last year, the state high court agreed to hear the case, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals. Two lower courts have already upheld the freedom of Blaine Adamson and his promotional print shop, Hands On Originals, to decline to print messages that violate Adamson’s beliefs.

“No one should be forced to express messages that conflict with their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell. “As we explain in our brief, Blaine serves all people. He simply declines to print messages that conflict with his faith. The law gives him and everyone else that freedom.”

In February, the Kentucky Supreme Court received 13 friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Adamson’s freedom, including briefs from Gov. Matt Bevin and 10 states. The court received only one brief in support of the government.

As Hands On Originals’ brief explains, “The right to decide what to say and what not to say—to choose which ideas to express—is core to human freedom…. It explains why most recoil at the thought of forcing a Democrat to make signs for a Republican politician, a gay man to create posters opposing same-sex marriage, a Jewish woman to make shirts celebrating German pride, or anyone to create flyers for a cause at odds with their conscience. And it establishes why the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission…cannot require Hands On Originals…and its Managing Owner, Blaine Adamson, to print messages conflicting with their faith….”

The brief relates how Adamson’s faith inspires him and his shop to love and serve others. One way that they do this is through a joint program with nonprofit religious group Adopt Uganda. That program provides unemployed women in Uganda with income by hiring them to create hand-woven baskets.

“The faith of HOO’s owners not only motivates them to serve the marginalized, it also places limits on what HOO can do,” the brief states. “HOO will not print items that convey or otherwise support messages inconsistent with its owners’ religious beliefs.”

“We are asking the Kentucky Supreme Court to affirm the First Amendment’s promise that everyone, including printers like Blaine, can decide for themselves the ideas and beliefs that they choose to express,” said ADF-allied attorney and co-counsel Bryan Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, of Lexington. “That’s a freedom that every American deserves.”

The case began in 2012 when Adamson declined to print shirts with a message promoting the Lexington Pride Festival, an event that the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization hosted. Although he declined to print the shirts because of the message that would have been on them, he nevertheless offered to refer the GLSO to another printer who would have made the shirts.

Unsatisfied, the GLSO filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission—despite eventually receiving the shirts for free from another printer. In 2014, the commission ruled that Adamson must print messages that conflict with his faith when customers ask him to do so.

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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Additional resources: Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Previous news releases:

  • 2018-02-12: Kentucky governor, 10 states, others provide chorus of support for Hands On Originals
  • 2017-07-12: Kentucky printer asks state high court to leave in place decision affirming expressive freedom
  • 2017-06-12: ADF: Kentucky high court should leave victory for printer’s freedom in place
  • 2017-05-12: Kentucky appeals court upholds victory for printer, deals blow to govt coercion
  • 2016-12-12: Kentucky printer standing up for everyone’s expressive freedom
  • 2016-02-09: Kentucky printer’s victory is victory for all
  • 2015-04-27: Ky. court upholds freedom of printers not to print
  • 2015-03-12: ADF to Ky. court: Uphold printers’ freedom to print or not print
  • 2014-12-09: Free to speak or not speak? That is the question in Ky. printer case
  • 2014-10-07: Recommended ruling in Ky. printer case could result in freedom for no one
  • 2012-04-20: ADF: Ky. T-shirt company not required to promote message it disagrees with


  • Blaine Adamson: I’m a T-shirt maker with gay customers and gay employees. I still was sued. (Daily Signal, 2017-09-17)
  • Samuel Green: Kentucky court ruling protects artist’s free speech, religious liberty (Daily Signal, 2017-05-22)
  • James Gottry: Kentucky ct. upholds constitutionally protected freedoms for all: Will others follow suit? (CNS News, 2017-05-15)
  • Jim Campbell: Arguments separating fashion designers from other artists aren’t worthy of the runway (National Review, 2017-01-23)
  • Jim Campbell: Designers can refuse to dress the Trumps. Other artists should have the same freedom. (Washington Post, 2017-01-18)
  • Jim Campbell: What two lesbian printers teach us about conscience rights (Townhall, 2016-12-17)

Legal documents, related news, and other related resources available in the right panel when this page is viewed at ADFmedia.org.