Hands On Originals, a t-shirt printing company in Kentucky, refused to print t-shirts promoting a gay-pride event, the Lexington Pride Festival. Its owners weren’t objecting to any customers’ sexual orientation; instead, they didn’t want to print the ideological message conveyed by the shirts.
The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization nevertheless filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission under an antidiscrimination ordinance that bans public accommodations from discriminating against individuals based on sexual orientation. The Commission ruled against Hands On Originals, but the state district court reversed on free speech and free exercise grounds, and the court of appeals (where Cato had filed a brief supporting the print shop) affirmed.
The case is now before the Kentucky Supreme Court. Cato has again filed an amicus brief, drafted by Prof. Eugene Volokh and UCLA’s First Amendment clinic. Our brief urges the court to uphold the right of printers to choose which speech they will help disseminate and which they won’t.
In Wooley v. Maynard (1977)—the New Hampshire “Live Free or Die” license-plate case—the U.S. Supreme Court held that people may not be required to display speech with which they disagree because the First Amendment protects the “individual freedom of mind.” Wooley’s logic applies equally to Hands On Originals’ right not to print messages with which they disagree, which is an even greater imposition than having to passively carry the state motto on your car’s tag.
Thanks to Prof. Volokh and his student, Ashley Phillips, for their work on the brief, and on this blog post.