Press Release

Christian printer wins free speech case Kentucky court says government can’t force artist to print gay pride t-shirts

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Melinda Skea 202-349-7224 media@becketlaw.org

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For Immediate Release:  May 12, 2017
Media Contact: Ryan Colby | media@becketlaw.org | 202-349-7219

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Kentucky court championed free speech today, ruling that the government cannot force t-shirt printer Blaine Adamson to create gay-pride t-shirts in violation of his religious beliefs. The court agreed with Becket, top legal scholars, and LGBT business owners, who all stood up for the rights of artists to choose what messages they would promote, without fear of government punishment. Today’s ruling emphasized that “the ‘service’ [the printer] offers is the promotion of messages. The ‘conduct’ [the printer] chose not to promote was pure speech.”

Adamson is the owner of Hands On Originals, a small print shop in Lexington, Kentucky. Adamson regularly employs and serves LGBT individuals, and serves everyone regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. He also cares deeply about the messages he promotes. Just as pro-choice printers have declined to print pro-life messages, and LGBT printers have declined to print anti-gay messages, Adamson does not print messages that violate his beliefs. Following common printing industry practice, he only creates messages that align with his views, and has declined to create t-shirts promoting strip clubs, violence, and sexually explicit videos. That’s why LGBT business owners stood up for Mr. Adamson’s right to choose the messages he promotes.

“It doesn’t matter what the speech is—pro-gay, anti-gay, pro-immigration, anti-immigration—the government can’t force you to print it,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at Becket, a non-profit religious liberty law firm. “That’s the beauty of free speech: It protects everyone.”

In 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) asked Mr. Adamson to print shirts promoting the local gay-pride festival. Because Mr. Adamson believes in traditional marriage, he could not in good conscience print the shirts. Instead, he referred GLSO to other printers who would match his price. Although GLSO received many offers to print the shirts and ultimately obtained them for free, it filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, which ordered Mr. Adamson to print the shirts and attend government-mandated “diversity training.” Today’s ruling makes clear that this violated Adamson’s freedom of speech.

“Free speech is most important on the most divisive issues,” said Goodrich. “That is the last place the government should ever be allowed to demand conformity.”

Mr. Adamson is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. In October 2015, Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief defending Mr. Adamson with renowned scholar and University of Virginia Law Professor Douglas Laycock, and Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLCS.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).