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Human Rights Commission sides with gay group in discrimination complaint

Monday, November 26, 2012
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — A Kentucky Human Rights Commission has sided with organizers of the Lexington Pride Festival in its discrimination complaint against T-shirt printer Hands On Originals, after the owner refused to print t-shirts for the city’s annual pride event, and said it was because his is “a Christian organization.”

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission found that the company violated the city’s fairness ordinance, part of which prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The commission also noted the company should stop “discriminating because of sexual orientation.”

Earlier this year, the Gay and Lesbian Service Organization (GLSO) of Lexington gathered quotes to have their t-shirts printed. Hands On Originals (HOO) provided the best quote for the needs of the committee, but when the committee contacted the vendor to accept the quote, Hands On Originals refused to do the work under the grounds that they were a Christian organization.

In its complaint, the GLSO argued that printing t-shirts is a general service and therefore, HOO cannot discriminate against GLSO by refusing to print t-shirts on Christian grounds after providing a quote.

“We are happy to finally have a declaration from the Human Rights Commission that Hands On Originals did discriminate and they should refrain from discriminating in the future,” said Aaron Baker, the GLSO’s president. “In some sense, I feel like we’ve gotten what we were looking for since the Human Rights Commission has agreed with us.”

Hands On Originals is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund), a conservative Christian group of lawyers who oppose same-sex marriage and civil unions, and adoption by same-sex couples.

“Americans in the marketplace should not be subject to legal attacks simply for abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF attorney Jim Campbell, in a statement. “The Constitution prohibits the government from forcing business owners to promote messages they disagree with.”

A public hearing in the case appears likely, as attorneys for Hands On Originals said in a statement that “the process will continue.”

While the fairness ordinance does not allow for punitive damages, the GLSO could seek compensatory damages for the cost of time spent researching other T-shirt printers or other costs associated with ordering from a different company.

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