LGBT-owned businesses, including BMP T-Shirts, on Thursday expressed support for a Kentucky-based Christian print shop owner who refused to print pro-LGBT T-shirts, even as the local Human Rights Commission has appealed a court ruling that said the printer cannot be forced to violate his religious beliefs or to attend government-mandated "diversity training."
"No one should be forced to do something against what they believe in," said Diane DiGeloromo, one owner of BMP T-shirts, a lesbian-owned business, according to a statement issued by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which, along with scholars and businesses, came to the defense of Blaine Adamson, the owner of a Lexington print shop called Hands on Originals.
"If we were approached by an organization such as the [controversial] Westboro Baptist Church, I highly doubt we would be doing business with them, and we would be very angry if we were forced to print anti-gay T-shirts," DiGeloromo said. "This isn't a gay or straight issue. This is a human issue."
Her business partner, Kathy Trautvertter, added, "You put your blood and your sweat and your tears into [your business]" and "it's very personal. ... When I put myself in [Mr. Adamson's] shoes, I could see it from his side."
BMP T-Shirts is one of the several LGBT-owned businesses that are backing the printer, according to the Becket Fund.
After Adamson refused to print T-shirts for Lexington's 2012 gay pride festival, he was found to be guilty of discrimination by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission last year, even though doing so would have violated his religious conviction. Additionally, the print shop was ordered to serve future requests from LGBT activists.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy group that defends the right of Christian expression, came to HOO's aid and filed an appeal of the decision. Fayette Circuit Court Judge James D. Ishmael Jr. reversed the Human Rights Commission's decision in April and stated the commission went above its statutory authority in siding with the LGBT legal group, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington.
The commission, which ordered Adamson to print shirts and attend government-mandated "diversity training," has now appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
"Americans disagree about sex and religion. That's nothing new. But this case is about whether the government will allow people who disagree to live side-by-side in peace, or whether the government will instead pick one 'correct' moral view and force everyone to conform," said Becket Fund's Deputy General Counsel Luke Goodrich. "Fortunately, the Supreme Court has already resolved this question and held that the government can't force people to promote views they disagree with."
"Both same-sex couples, and religious believers committed to traditional understandings of sexuality, have faced hostile regulation that condemns their most cherished commitments as evil," said Douglas Laycock, professor of law at the University of Virginia. "The American solution to this conflict is to protect the freedom of both sides — not punish the side that dissents."
"Just as a pro-choice printer has a right to decline to print a religious message attacking Planned Parenthood, and a gay photographer has a right to decline to photograph a religious anti-gay rally, a Christian printer has a right to decline to print messages that violate his beliefs," added Goodrich. "The right of free speech protects everyone, and it means that the government doesn't get to force anyone to say things that contradict their deeply held beliefs."
In his opinion, Ishmael said the HRC's ruling back in April, "violates the recognized constitutional rights of HOO and its owners to be free from compelled expression. Hoo and its owners have a constitutional right of freedom of expression from government coercion.
"The commission's order substantially burdens HOO's and its owners' free exercise of religion, wherein the government punished HOO and its owners by its order for their sincerely held religious beliefs. This is contrary to established constitutional law."