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

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Monday, February 12, 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.

Kentucky governor, 10 states, others provide chorus of support for Hands On Originals

Briefs filed with Kentucky Supreme Court support Lexington printer 13 to 1
Monday, February 12, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky Supreme Court has received 13 friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the freedom of a Lexington promotional printer to operate his business consistent with his faith. Gov. Matt Bevin, 10 states, numerous scholars, and multiple groups filed briefs in Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals. The court received only one brief in support of the government and its efforts to punish the printer.

In October of last year, the state high court agreed to hear the case. 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. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Adamson and his shop.

“As the numerous briefs filed in this case affirm, printers and other creative professionals should be able to peacefully live and work according to their beliefs without fear of punishment by the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell. “Blaine serves all people. He simply declines to print messages that conflict with his faith. The law promises him that freedom.”

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.

The 10 states that filed a brief in support of Adamson highlight the far-reaching implications of the case by explaining that “a freelance writer who objects to Scientology would be violating the Fairness Ordinance…if he refused to write a press release announcing a Scientologist event. An actor would be violating the ordinance if he refused to perform in a commercial for a religious organization of which he disapproves.”

In his brief, Bevin argues that “Kentucky is, and always has been, a land of freedom of conscience, where citizens can live without fear that the government will prescribe what beliefs and speech are orthodox and require conformity therewith.”

Even though many of the scholars and groups that filed briefs do not share Adamson’s religious beliefs, they nevertheless oppose government efforts to force him to print messages that he opposes.

“The support for Hands On Originals is both broad and diverse,” said ADF-allied attorney and co-counsel Bryan Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, of Lexington. “Scholars and organizations that support LGBT legal causes have united in one voice with free-speech and religious-liberty groups, and they agree that the commission cannot force Blaine to print messages that conflict with his beliefs.”

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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Friend-of-the-court briefs filed with Kentucky Supreme Court

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

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Previous news releases:

  • 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)

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