Lexington Human Rights Commission Rules Against Discriminating T-Shirt Company

Back in march, the Kentucky-based T-shirt printer Hands On Originals refused to print apparel for the Lexington Pride festival, claiming that as a Christian company, the order violated its values. The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) filed a complaint, and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission has now ruled that Hands On Originals did discriminate in violation of local policies protecting sexual orientation.

Defending Hands On Originals, the Alliance Defending Freedom argued that the company shouldn’t have to “promote messages they disagree with,” including “that people should be ‘proud’ about engaging in homosexual behavior or same-sex relationships.” The Commission rejected this argument, noting that the company rejected the order not because of the message of the shirt — a stylized five marking the anniversary of Lexington Pride with a list of sponsors on the back — but because of the identity of the group ordering the shirts.

Hands On Originals also tried to argue that the situation was comparable to the Ku Klux Klan asking a black business owner to print shirts for a rally, but the Commission pointed out that the KKK is not a group within a protected class of people. Furthermore, the company has previously printed shirts with other designs that “could be interpreted as crude or in conflict with a person’s Christian beliefs.”

Though the T-shirt printer argued that it employs gay workers and has filled orders for gay customers in the past, the Commission pointed it out that that “does not eliminate the fact that they denied GLSO business based on their sexual orientation.”

The investigation is complete, but the case is ongoing. GLSO and Hands On Originals will now meet with an independent hearing examiner to determine possible compensatory damages. The law does not allow for punitive damages in such cases, but the GLSO is not seeking monetary damages anyway.