Politics

The Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case dealing with a Lexington company’s refusal to print T-shirts for organizers of the city’s gay pride parade.

The state’s high court will rule on whether the actions violated Lexington’s local fairness ordinance, which forbids businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

The lawsuit began in 2012 when Blaine Adamson, the owner of Christian apparel company Hands On Originals, refused to make T-shirts for the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization. He said doing so would violate his religious beliefs.

The group filed a complaint with the Lexington Human Rights Commission, which said the company had violated the city’s fairness ordinance.

But Hands On Originals appealed the decision and courts have so far ruled against the human rights commission’s decision, saying the company’s actions were legal.

Earlier this year, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Hands On Originals can’t be forced to “promote” a message they disagree with.

“Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits [Hands On Originals], a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship,” wrote Joy Kramer, chief judge of the state appeals court.

“Thus, although the menu of services HOO provides to the public is accordingly limited, and censors certain points of view, it is the same limited menu HOO offers to every customer and is not, therefore, prohibited by the fairness ordinance.”

The Human Rights Commission appealed the Court of Appeals decision and last month the Kentucky Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.

A date for arguments over the case hasn’t been set yet.

Eight cities in Kentucky have fairness ordinances, which forbid discrimination by businesses based on sexual orientation: Louisville, Lexington, Covington, Vicco, Frankfort, Morehead, Danville and Midway.

Liberal Kentucky lawmakers have for years pushed for a statewide law that would protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the policy has never received an official vote in a legislative committee.

Meanwhile conservative lawmakers have in recent years proposed legislation that would gut local fairness ordinances by protecting businesses from being sued or having to pay fines for violating the laws.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.