Saturday, May 13, 2017

Fragmented Decision Upholds Business' Refusal to Print LGBT Pride T-Shirts

In a 2-1 decision yesterday, the Kentucky Court of Appeals concluded that a business which prints customized T-shirts was not in violation of a county's public accommodation law when it refused to print T-shirts for a local LGBT Pride Festival. At issue in Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals, Inc., (KY Ct. App., May 12, 2017), was the policy of a business which prints customized t-shirts, mugs, pens, and other accessories "to refuse any order that would endorse positions that conflict with the convictions of the ownership."

Chief Judge Kramer, writing the court's opinion, held that the business, Hands On Originals (HOO), never refused goods or services to a customer on the basis the customer's sexual orientation or gender identity because the order was placed by an organization which has no sexual orientation of gender identity. Neither did HOO deny goods or services because the customer was engaging in conduct engaged in exclusively or predominantly by a protected class of people. Judge Kramer explained, saying in part:
The acts of homosexual intercourse and same-sex marriage are conduct engaged in exclusively or predominantly by persons who are homosexual. But anyone—regardless of religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, age, or corporate status—may espouse the belief that people of varying sexual orientations have as much claim to unqualified social acceptance as heterosexuals. Indeed, the posture of the case before us underscores that very point: this case was initiated and promoted by Aaron Baker, a non-transgendered man in a married, heterosexual relationship who nevertheless functioned at all relevant times as the President of the GLSO.
Judge Lambert concurred only in the result and filed a separate opinion contending that HOO is protected in its conduct because of the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Statute.  She said in part:
HOO refused to print the shirts because the HOO owners believe the lifestyle choices promoted by GSLO conflict with their Christian values.
Judge Taylor dissented, saying in part:
The majority takes the position that the conduct of HOO in censoring the publication of the desired speech sought by GLSO does not violate the Fairness Ordinance. 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. This result would be totally contrary to legislative intent and undermine the legislative policy of LFUCG 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.
 Lexington Herald Leader reports on the decision.