NEW YORK (BP) — A Lexington, Ky. T-shirt company is under investigation by the city’s Human Rights Commission after it refused to print T-shirts for a local gay rights organization.
The owner of “Hands On Originals,” a well-known T-shirt company in the region, declined to print the shirts for the city’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) because it would conflict with his Christian convictions.
The privately owned company is now accused of violating Lexington’s Fairness Act, which protects people and organizations from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The attacks are out of line, said Jim Campbell, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, the organization representing Hands On Originals.
“No business owner should be forced to violate his conscience simply because someone demands it,” he said. “The Constitution absolutely supports the rights of business owners to decline a request to support a message that conflicts with their deeply held convictions.”
Raymond Sexton, the executive director of the Human Rights Commission told Fox News that Hands On Originals will be “required by law to participate in the investigation.”
“We have subpoena power and have the backing of the law,” he said. “We are a law enforcement agency and people have to comply.”
Should the company be found guilty of discriminating against the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, Sexton said they could be subjected to fines.
Hands On Originals has faced a barrage of attacks since the accusations were made public. More than 2,000 people have joined a boycott movement on Facebook.
The Fayette County public school system placed a temporary hold on buying T-shirts from the company until the issue is resolved. The University of Kentucky is also reviewing its future business with the T-shirt maker.
Lexington’s openly gay mayor, Jim Gray, has condemned the privately-owned T-shirt company, telling the Lexington Herald-Leader “People don’t have patience for this sort of attitude today.”
“I’m against discrimination, period,” Gray said in a statement released to television station WKYT. “It’s bad for business and bad for the city. I support the Human Rights Commission in a full and thorough investigation.”
GLSO wanted Hands On Original to print shirts for the city’s fifth-annual Lexington Pride Festival. The store offered to find another company that would honor its price, but GLSO was not satisfied.
“Our feeling on that is, separate but equal wasn’t OK during the civil rights movement and it’s not OK now,” Aaron Baker told the television station. Baker is board president of GLSO.
Blaine Adamson is the managing owner of Hands on Originals. He defended his company in an op-ed that appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader and unequivocally denied that he is guilty of discrimination.
“I decided to pass on the opportunity because, as a Christian owner, I cannot in good conscience endorse groups or events that run counter to my convictions,” Adamson wrote in the op-ed.
Adamson, who has been in business for more than 20 years, wrote that he “does not expect, or even ask, people to agree with my view.”
“All I ask for people is to respect my right as an owner to not produce a product that is contrary to my principles,” he wrote.
Adamson called on people to stand up for the rights of small business owners not “to be forced into producing a product with a message that conflicts with their beliefs and consciences.”
“Over the past 20 years, we have declined to produce several other products with different messages than the one at issue here because we disapproved of whatever message it was, and it never had anything to do with discrimination,” he wrote. “People reading this may disagree with my view on the current issue, but I hope they will join us in supporting our right to decline an order that promotes a view so contrary to our personal beliefs.
Sexton told Fox News it could take up to six months to investigate the charges.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard daily on Fox News Radio stations around the nation. He is the author of “Dispatches From Bitter America” and “They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick.” This article first appeared at www.toddstarnes.com. Used by permission.