Lexington Herald-Leader

This Kentucky printer won't make gay pride T-shirts. Is sexual discrimination or religious freedom key?

This Kentucky printer won't make gay pride T-shirts. Is sexual discrimination or religious freedom key?

Arlene’s Flowers.

Masterpiece Cakeshop.

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.

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Hey Lexington Herald-Leader: This one phrase makes me question your impartiality on Kim Davis

Hey Lexington Herald-Leader: This one phrase makes me question your impartiality on Kim Davis

You remember Kim Davis, right?

As a self-described "foul-mouthed moderate" put it on Twitter, "She's that lady who refused to issue gay couples marriage licenses in Kentucky."

More precisely, as GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly notes, "Davis didn’t try to deny license. She just wanted to avoid being the person who had to sign it." 

If somehow her name doesn't ring a bell, we have a post or two — or 3 million — in our archive.

I bring her up because, well, she's back in the headlines again.

The news peg is simple: A gay man who unsuccessfully sought a marriage license from Davis has filed to run against her for Rowan County clerk. 

This is the headline — cue the clickbait — atop the Lexington Herald-Leader's story:

Kim Davis denied him a marriage license. Now he wants to take her job

Eventually, the Herald-Leader story will turn into what approaches an unpaid political advertisement for Davis' challenger, the fourth Democrat so far to enter the race. But up top, the report is straightforward and factual (albeit less than precise on how Davis phrased her position, as tmatt noted):

MOREHEAD — David Ermold, one of the men denied a same-sex marriage license by Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in 2015, hopes to challenge her for the clerk’s seat next year, he announced Wednesday.
Davis set off an international furor when she denied a marriage license to Ermold and his partner, David Moore, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right for same-sex couples to marry.
Davis, who said providing the license violated her religious beliefs, continued to withhold the license, even after a federal judge ordered her to issue it, and was jailed briefly. The issue was solved when one of her deputies, Brian Mason, agreed to issue licenses, and in 2016 the Kentucky General Assembly established an alternate license.
Mason is still issuing same-sex marriage licenses, he said Wednesday.
“I am running to restore the confidence of the people in our clerk’s office and because I believe that the leaders of our community should act with integrity and fairness, and they should put the needs of their constituents first,” said Ermold, 43, who teaches English at the University of Pikeville and directs Morehead Pride, a local gay rights organization. “My commitment to Rowan County is to restore professional leadership, fairness, and responsibility to the clerk’s office. I will build upon the successes of the past, and I will seek solutions for the challenges we may still face.”

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A Kentucky judge defies gay couples. So why are readers told so little about his beliefs?

A Kentucky judge defies gay couples. So why are readers told so little about his beliefs?

By now some of you may have heard of the Kentucky judge who is quitting rather than award custody of adopted kids to gay parents.

It’s reminiscent of Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who in 2015 refused to allow her name on marriage licenses for same sex couples -- but was willing to let such licenses be issued under someone else’s authority. She ended up getting a meeting with Pope Francis, thanks to a sympathetic apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Here’s what the Washington Post had on this latest story -- the latest Kentucky court drama, that is:

A Kentucky judge who stirred controversy earlier this year by refusing to hear adoption cases involving gay parents says he plans to resign in hopes of quashing an ethics inquiry by a state judicial panel.
Judge W. Mitchell Nance told the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission in a memo made public Wednesday that he would resign effective Dec. 16 rather than fight the commission’s charges that he violated ethical rules. He also sent a resignation letter to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), the Associated Press reported.
Nance was facing sanctions that included possible removal from the bench.

The first comment in the story is from the opposition.

“Judge Nance must have seen the writing on the wall,” said LGBT advocate Chris Hartman, whose organization, the Fairness Campaign, helped bring a complaint against the judge. “I hope this sends a message to judges across the country that if their conscience conflicts with their duty, they must leave the bench.”
Kentucky law permits same-sex couples to adopt children.

As tmatt has written (but this is an angle often ignored in a lot of coverage), the main players in these dramas often try to engineer compromises by which the petitioners can get what they want, but without the Christian official’s cooperation.

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Kentucky court says free speech, not faith, at issue in pride fest T-shirt case. Press says: Huh?

Kentucky court says free speech, not faith, at issue in pride fest T-shirt case. Press says: Huh?

There can be little doubt that Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals, whose subtitle is "Christian Outfitters," is sincere in his commitment to his faith and beliefs. Just watch the video above.

Whether or not that's enough to allow him and the firm, known as HOO, to reject a print order for T-shirts promoting a gay pride festival is the hot topic in and around Lexington, Kentucky, these days.

Last week, a 2-1 vote of the Kentucky Court of Appeals came out in favor of lower court rulings backing Anderson. So-called "viewpoint discrimination" is allowed, with the decision stating, "Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits HOO, a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship."

This is a ruling that doesn't involve, or even discuss, Adamson's free exercise of religion rights, but rather his right to accept or refuse printing orders based on his principles. That's a key difference from other cases across the country, but the local paper -- which presumably has been close to the case -- skipped over it.

Let's see what the Lexington Herald-Leader said in reporting the ruling:

“Because of my Christian beliefs, I can’t promote that,” Adamson told a Human Rights Commission hearing officer. “Specifically, it’s the Lexington Pride Festival, the name and that it’s advocating pride in being gay and being homosexual, and I can’t promote that message. It’s something that goes against my belief system.”
In 2012, the Human Rights Commission said that service refusal violated the city’s fairness ordinance, part of which prohibits businesses which are open to the public from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation.
However, the Court of Appeals disagreed on Friday, ruling that speech is not necessarily protected under the fairness ordinance.
While the ordinance does protect gays and lesbians from discrimination because of their sexual orientation, what Hands On Originals objected to was spreading the gay rights group’s message, Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer wrote in the majority opinion. That is different than refusing to serve the group because of the sexual behavior of its individual members, she wrote. A Christian who owns a printing company should not be compelled to spread a group’s message if he disagrees with it, Kramer wrote.

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Win for religious right alone? Kentucky governor backs same-sex marriage compromise

Win for religious right alone? Kentucky governor backs same-sex marriage compromise

As often happens during the rush of the holidays, a few interesting stories get pushed to the side when it comes to national coverage.

So let's flash back to a few days before Christmas day, when the new Republican governor of Kentucky did something that was interesting and controversial. He issued an executive order that would immediately clear the way for same-sex couples to get married -- with no hassles -- in any county in the Bluegrass State.

You didn't hear about this?

The action was controversial, because under normal circumstances the state legislature needs to act in order to make this kind of change in state laws. That could happen in the very near future, but Gov. Matt Bevin decided not to wait. Still, as The Louisville Courier-Journal noted, this move had some bipartisan support:

... Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo praised the move, saying he was an early proponent of a similar approach. "It's a simple fix, and I applaud the governor for finding a way to balance the law and the concerns that county clerks, like mine in Floyd County, had."

Oh, wait, right. This action by the governor did make it possible for various state officials to willingly sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples. That's good for gay couples. However, it also made it possible for county clerks to retain their jobs without, by having to sign their approval of same-sex unions, violating centuries of Christian doctrine. That's good, for those seeking a liberal interpretation of the First Amendment's guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

Thus, Bevin's action was not really a win for gay couples, as well as traditional Christians, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and others. It was something else, as stated in the coverage by The Lexington Herald-Leader:

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Speaking of religion and politics, this is not your run-of-the-mill cause for pastor activism ...

Speaking of religion and politics, this is not your run-of-the-mill cause for pastor activism ...

Same-sex marriage. Abortion. Liquor by the drink.

It's not uncommon for pastors to speak out on controversial public issues — either from a strictly moral perspective or a political angle.

But this one, courtesy of Kentucky's Lexington Herald-Leader, is new to me (even though I live in a state where the deceased have been known to turn out in large numbers for elections):

There's no "Thou shalt not" on vote buying in the Bible, but it's a sin nonetheless, according to a group of Magoffin County pastors trying to discourage the pernicious practice in a place where it has long corrupted the fabric of politics.
The ministers have asked local candidates in the general election to make a public pledge not to buy votes or provide money for others to buy votes for them, and to report anyone who buys votes for them to Attorney General Jack Conway's office.
The local Salyersville Independent newspaper has been running a copy of the pledge in the paper with the names of those who have signed, and posting photos of the signed pledges on its Facebook page.

Keep reading, and the Herald-Leader provides a nice piece of religious imagery, straight out of Exodus:

Judge-Executive Charles "Doc" Hardin said nearly every candidate for local office has signed the pledge, himself included.
Justin Williams, who pastors Lakeville Baptist Church and helped organize the effort, said the hope was that the pledge "will ultimately lead to a day that when I take my daughters to vote for the first time, that vote buying will be a distant memory in Magoffin County."
That wouldn't qualify as a miracle on the order of parting the Red Sea, but it would be remarkable.

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