And yes, Hands On Originals, the T-shirt shop that will be the focus of today’s discussion.
All of these businesses — in Washington state, Colorado and Kentucky — have been the subject of past GetReligion posts exploring media coverage of the intersection of sexual discrimination and religious freedom.
Often, the gay-rights side receives preferential coverage on this topic. News reports frequently focus on the “refusal of service” aspect as opposed to sincere claims of free speech and religion. But what about the Lexington Herald-Review story that we’ll critique today?
Does it reflect both sides? Does it treat everyone fairly? Does it make the clear the competing legal arguments?
Yes, yes and yes.
The lede explains the history:
More than seven years after a Lexington shop refused to make T-shirts for the 2012 Lexington Pride Festival, the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments Friday about whether or not the company violated the city’s Fairness Ordinance.
Before the case began moving through the court system, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Right’s Commission accused the business of violating the ordinance that prohibits discrimination. In 2015, Fayette County Circuit Court Judge James Ishmael reversed the commission’s decision, saying there was no violation.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld Ishmael’s ruling in 2017 with a 2-1 vote.
Keep reading, and the Herald-Leader boils down the arguments on each side:
Much of the debate in the case boils down to whether or not Hands On Originals refused to provide a service because of the sexual orientation of a customer — the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization — or refused to print a message that does not align with its beliefs.
The human rights commission argues that the shirt company sells goods or services to the general public, a so-called public accommodation in the ordinance, and can’t deny goods or services because of race, gender, national origin or other factors.
Attorneys arguing on behalf of Hands On Originals said that the “service” the business provides by printing shirts is the promotion of messages, making its decision a freedom of speech issue.
Such an approach by a news organization seems to simple.
I mean, “Duh.” Reporting both sides is what impartial journalists should do.
Keep reading, and both sides are quoted:
Ray Sexton, the director of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, believes that the “messaging” of the shirt distracts from the discrimination.
“It seems like the bare-bones allegations are getting lost in the freedom of speech and message of the shirt issue,” Sexton said. “If this case was truly about the message on the shirt, they would’ve rejected it from the beginning ... it wasn’t until they found out who the shirt was for that they denied the service.”
Jim Campbell, the senior attorney representing Hands On Originals on behalf of the non-profit Alliance Defending Freedom, said that the business serves everyone, but does not print certain messages.
Hands On Originals should not be forced to print a shirt with messaging against its owners’ religious beliefs, and a gay shirtmaker should not be forced to print a shirt that expresses religious beliefs that go against gay marriage, Campbell argued.
“This cuts across ideological lines,” Campbell said.
This is not an award-winning piece of journalism. It’s simply a nice job of daily reporting that reflects well on the newspaper involved. Kudos to the Herald-Leader.