Kentucky Governor Supports T-Shirt Company's Religious Freedom to Deny Printing to Gay Pride

Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Others refuse to buy into this argument

Governor Matt Bevin, the Republican governor of Kentucky, has urged the Supreme Court of the state to give a judgment favoring Hands-On Originals company. The owner of the company had steadfastly refused to print T-shirts which will be worn during a gay rights festival . The company owner cited his personal religious beliefs as an impetus to refuse the print order. The customer in question was the Lexington's Gay and Lesbian Services Organization.

The charge brought against Hands-On Originals was that its actions were in direct contravention of the Lexington's fairness ordinance passed in 2012. It downright refused to print the T-shirts for the Pride Festival to be held in the city. Hands-On Originals won the case in Kentucky Court of Appeals in May 2017. The court ruled that Lexington's fairness ordinance in this case can be overruled by the right to free laws enjoyed by the company. Parts of the law prohibits businesses which transacts with the public to discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation. The ruling was appealed by Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission. The case is now to be heard by judges of Kentucky Supreme Court.

Lawyers acting in the interest of Governor Bevin filed a brief where they argue that requiring the owners of Hands-On Originals company to print T-shirts supposedly “promoting homosexuality” will contravene the religious freedom of the company. It will also violate the much valued freedom of conscience enshrined in the Constitution of Kentucky.

Steve Pitt, the general counsel of Governor Bevin, said that the rights of its citizens were protected by Commonwealth of Kentucky for more than 200 years. The citizens can act as per their conscience. The case in question tests whether the illustrious history of the state when it comes to safeguarding the freedom of conscience can continue or be stopped in its tracks. He pointed out that forcing the hands of any business owner like the aforesaid T-shirt printing company to do what they do not want to do will violate the important freedom of conscience.

The opposition is not lying low either. Josh Mers, a candidate for Kentucky House and who is also Lexington Fairness chairman, said that terming the case as a freedom of conscience issue is a clichéd one. He also said that this particular context cannot be applicable in this particular situation.


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