A Kentucky appeals court has just delivered a stunning blow to the ongoing effort to redefine opposition to same-sex marriage as a form of discrimination against gay people.
Blaine Adamson is a Kentucky native, a married family man supporting three kids, and a Christian. For the last ten years, he has owned and operated a small printing shop in Lexington, Ky., and has routinely turned down printing messages that offend his conscience, including a promotion for a local strip club, a biker T-shirt that called women the B-word, and a T-shirt promoting the local Pride Festival.
Only the latter resulted in a complaint to the local human rights commission, which found Adamson guilty of discrimination against gay people.
But Adamson doesn’t refuse to serve gay customers. According to Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jim Campbell, he has even printed materials for a lesbian singer who performed at the Pride Festival. It’s the message he objects to — not the messenger, whom he’s happy to serve.
Today, for the first time, a court has sided with freedom. The case was decided not on religious liberty grounds, but on recognizing the difference between objecting to a person and objecting to a message.
The human rights commission argued that the case was akin to someone saying he didn’t object to Jews but that he just objected to wearing a yarmulke. The judge wasn’t buying:
The act of wearing a yarmulke is conduct engaged in exclusively or predominantly by persons who practice Judaism. 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.
He points out the organization whose business was refused has no sexual orientation (being a corporation) and admits people of all orientations who share its goals of celebrating gay pride:
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. For this reason, conveying a message in support of a cause or belief (by, for example, producing or wearing a t-shirt bearing a message supporting equality) cannot be deemed conduct that is so closely correlated with a protected status that it is engaged in exclusively or predominantly by persons who have that particular protected status. It is a point of view and form of speech that could belong to any person, regardless of classification.
No one, the court recognized, has a right to compel either a person or his property to promote their message. “Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits HOO, a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship.”
This is a breakthrough case. The human rights commission may appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court. But for the moment, let’s celebrate.
Congratulations Blaine Adamson and Alliance Defending Freedom.
Photo credit: Screenshot via YouTube