Human Rights Commission Backs Gay And Lesbian Organization In T-Shirt Complaint

Nov 27, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Lexington’s Human Rights Commission has found that t-shirt printer Hands-On Originals violated the city’s Fairness Ordinance by declining to print shirts for a gay pride festival earlier this year, but the legal dispute is far from settled.

The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed the complaint against Hands-On Originals back in March. Now, with the Human Rights Commission’s announcement, the GLSO’s case moves forward. The commission’s executive director, Raymond Sexton, says efforts will be made to resolve the issue by mail, but if they fail, a public hearing will likely be held in front of an independent hearing examiner.

"We're not seeking compensatory damages. All we're seeking is a declaration that there was in fact discrimination and that that discrimination is wrong," says Aaron Barker, GLSO president.

Baker adds that his organization would also like to see Hands-On Originals cease any discriminatory practices. But others, such as Martin Cothran with the Family Foundation, see the announcement as a setback for religious freedom.

"We're disappointed that the Human Rights Commission has chosen to basically force a company owned by somebody with religious beliefs that affects this issue... to do things that are in violation of their own religious beliefs," Cothran says.

The t-shirt maker has argued that it was not discriminating against homosexuals – only exercising its right not to print a message that conflicts with the company’s Christian values. But the Human Rights Commission says it found several examples of other designs that could offend Christians that made it through Hands-On’s approval process.