When you think of Christian business owners discriminating against gay or lesbian customers, the stories usually involve florists or bakers who won’t make products for use in a same-sex wedding because that goes against their beliefs. It’s an argument that never made any sense. After all, they’re more than willing to make a cake for a man who wants to celebrate the birthday of his second wife. Yet their narrative has always been that accepting money to do the job they advertise is persecution against them.
Five years ago, that kind of narrative got even more absurd when a Kentucky company called Hands On Originals refused to print T-shirts for an upcoming gay pride parade. Here’s the ever-so-offensive design that the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington requested:
Horrifying, I know.
Hands On Originals owner Blaine Adamson said at the time:
… due to the promotional nature of our products, it is the prerogative of the company to refuse any order that would endorse positions that conflict with the convictions of the ownership.
What never made sense was how that shirt was an endorsement of anything other than acknowledging the existence of LGBT people. It wasn’t hate speech. It wasn’t anti-Christian. It was a straightforward design for a local event.
And yet it became such a symbol for Christian persecution that the film God’s Not Dead cited it as an example of how rough people of faith have it.
After Adamson refused to make the shirts, the Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission said it was discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and that violated the county’s public accommodation ordinance.
Without getting into all the legal details, a lawsuit was filed, a lower court ruled in Adamson’s favor, and an appeal was filed.
While the ordinance does protect gays and lesbians from discrimination because of their sexual orientation, what Hands On Originals objected to was spreading the gay rights group’s message, Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer wrote in the majority opinion. That is different than refusing to serve the group because of the sexual behavior of its individual members, she wrote. A Christian who owns a printing company should not be compelled to spread a group’s message if he disagrees with it, Kramer wrote.
What message?! No one was asking Adamson to endorse or approve of marriage equality. They asked him to make a shirt for a Pride event. That’s about as unoffensive as it gets.
At least the lone dissenting judge understood how crazy the majority’s opinion was:
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Jeff S. Taylor said refusing service because of personal objection to homosexuality is “deliberate and intentional discriminatory conduct … in violation of the fairness ordinance.” Anti-discrimination laws must protect the free speech of minority groups to be successful, Taylor wrote.
“The majority takes the position that the conduct of Hands On Originals in censoring the publication of the desired speech sought by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization does not violate the fairness ordinance,” Taylor wrote.
“Effectively, that would mean that the ordinance protects gays or lesbians only to the extent they do not publicly display their same-gender sexual orientation,” he wrote. “This result would be totally contrary to legislative intent and undermine the legislative policy of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, since the ordinance logically must protect against discriminatory conduct that is inextricably tied to sexual orientation or gender identity. Otherwise, the ordinance would have limited or no force or effect.”
The Human Rights Commission is weighing whether to appeal the decision to the state’s Supreme Court.
(via Religion Clause)