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Bed-and-breakfast owner defiant in face of gay discrimination ruling

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* Illinois ACLU

The Illinois Human Rights Commission has declined review and adopted the report and recommendation of an administrative law judge, ruling against a Paxton Bed & Breakfast after its owners denied a downstate couple – Mark and Todd Wathen – access to the facility to celebrate their civil union in 2011. Today’s action comes after an administrative law judge found that the denial of the use of the facility was because the Wathens are gay – a violation of Illinois law. The judge also previously ordered the Bed & Breakfast to pay $30,000 to the Wathens for their emotional distress, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. Most importantly, the owners of the Bed & Breakfast were ordered to cease discriminating against same-sex couples by denying them use of the facilities for marriage and civil union ceremonies.

The Illinois Human Rights Commission refused the Bed & Breakfast’s request to review the administrative law judge’s recommended orders, which makes them the final orders of the Commission.

The following can be attributed to John Knight of the ACLU of Illinois, who along with Betty Tsamis of the Tsamis Law Office and Clay Tillack and Robert A. H. Middleton of Schiff Hardin served as counsel to the Wathens:

The Commission’s decision once again sends a clear message that denying couples the use of a public wedding venue in Illinois because they are gay or lesbian is simply not permitted. Business owners cannot pick-and-choose to follow laws simply because they personally disagree with same-sex couples’ decision to marry.

Fortunately, we have not seen many examples of this type of blatant discrimination since the same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Illinois.

The judge’s ruling is here. More background is here.

* Law Bulletin

Section 5-102(A) of the Human Rights Act states that it is a civil rights violation to deny “the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities, goods, and services” on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation and other categories at a “public place of accommodation” — defined as restaurants, theaters, parks and a broad collection of other types of businesses aimed at convenience and enjoyment.

Robinson found that, because the inn really only declined services to others if, for instance, they couldn’t afford them, that the inn qualified as a public place of accommodation under the law.

He also said the inn owners did not factually back up their defense under the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act — which says that “the government may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless it proves a narrowly tailored, compelling interest for doing so.

That defense should be resolved by an appellate court, Robinson wrote. But he added that Timber Creek did not explain how allowing a same-sex ceremony on its premises, especially when its employees were not required to be present at such an event, was “somehow a sub silencio endorsement of anything goes on during that event.”

That logic was spelled out in Robinson’s initial decision in the case on Sept. 15, 2015. His rationale on damages was spelled out in his March order, in which he also briefly contemplated the notion that the Wathens might be “testers” — activists less interested in justice for themselves than in creating legal precedents.

* Associated Press

Jason Craddock, an attorney for the bed and breakfast owners, said he plans to fight the decision. The owners have been ordered to pay about $80,000 in damages and legal fees and allow same-sex couples access to their facilities. Timber Creek’s website still notes that they do “not host civil union or gay marriage ceremonies and/or receptions.”

Craddock said he wasn’t surprised by the panel’s move and was prepared to ask the whole commission to consider the case and, if necessary, take it beyond the agency to an Illinois appellate court.

* News-Gazette

[The B&B’s co-owner, Jim Walder] called the panel’s decision “disappointing,” but he added that “it will not change our policy.” Walder was referring to a policy that remains explicitly stated on the TimberCreek B&B’s website, saying the business “cannot host civil unions or gay marriages” because “we cannot be part of what God condemns.”

“For thousands of years homosexuality has been considered sodomy and gay marriage an abomination — civilly and Biblically,” Walder said Tuesday. “We choose to remain consistent in obeying long-held civil understanding and biblical teaching on both.”

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


30 Comments
  1. - siriusly - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:03 am:

    For thousands of years human slavery was also normalized, commercialized and accepted.

    As a society and as a country we have always - from day one - built into our governance structure the mechanisms to adapt and change.

    The argument that a law can be ignored because it establishes a “new normal” is not really consistent with our nation’s history. It’s not a valid legal argument in this country.

    We have changed norms for the better constantly since the Revolution.


  2. - How Ironic - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:17 am:

    Hopefully they go bankrupt, and lose the business. We don’t need that type of bigotry in the state. Religious freedom, doesn’t mean ‘discrimination enabled zone’.


  3. - thunderspirit - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:19 am:

    The Supreme Court has interpreted the free exercise clause of the First Amendment so that the freedom to believe is absolute, but the ability to act on those beliefs is not.

    If, in the name of religious freedom, the freedom of others are infringed upon, that’s a violation.


  4. - Ron Burgundy - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:19 am:

    Sorry, law is the law folks. I suggest you find a different line of business.


  5. - Chicago_Downstater - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:25 am:

    Unfortunately, I can see this being overturned based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in a higher court. And the Hobby Lobby ruling probably won’t help either.

    Sad state of affairs when our government let’s folks use religion as an excuse to discriminate. Can’t wait until divorcees start being denied services. *last sentence = much snark*


  6. - HangingOn - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:25 am:

    So I’m guessing they refuse to provide services for people who are divorced too. Also people who aren’t married but want to share a bed. I mean, doesn’t the bible say those things are against God?

    If these people who claim they refuse because God says it’s bad, there are a *lot* of people that have to be excluded. There would be very few people left to pay him to stay in his B&B.


  7. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:31 am:

    To borrow a line from Trump supporters, “You lost, get over it.”


  8. - Nothsider - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:35 am:

    Skeptic, you forgot the most important word: “Buttercup.”

    As for these delicate flowers and their B&B, if I ever have cause to be in Paxton, I’ll definitely spend my lodging money elsewhere.


  9. - illini97 - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:40 am:

    They’re out $80,000 and still going? Just how profitable is a B&B in East Central Illinois?


  10. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:41 am:

    Under the current law, they should simply not host any weddings or receptions. It would be cheaper than paying the cost of court fees and judgments.

    It used to be that businesses classified as common carriers, usually in transportation, had to accept all customers. That was a condition of using the public highways. Other businesses could accept or refuse customers for any reason or no reason.

    Now it seems that all businesses are considered common carriers. You can only refuse business if you think the customer won’t pay.


  11. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:52 am:

    We don’t get to pick and choose the laws we follow. If they can’t operate their business in accordance with the law then perhaps they should find another line of work. Or, as LBM has suggested, simply don’t do receptions for anyone anymore.


  12. - SKI - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 9:55 am:

    Glad they got it handed to them in court. How is this any different than refusing service to someone due to the color of their skin? I believe back in day the south hide behind religion to justify segregation too.


  13. - Archiesmom - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:01 am:

    I haven’t looked through all of the links, and I only skimmed the website, but it appears that they would let this couple stay there and commit acts that are against their religious belief, but just refuse to allow their facilities to be used for a gay marriage. I find that interesting. I suppose the fact that the facility is advertised in multiple places as being Christian is supposed to be a big hint that perhaps those with different lifestyles or viewpoints wouldn’t exactly be comfortable there.


  14. - fed up - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:02 am:

    So if my religion requires me to oppose bigotry at every turn, my business could choose to NOT serve discriminatory B&B owners, AND it would be legal, according to them? Hmm


  15. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:05 am:

    Can’t the owners simply stop being a public accommodation and instead become a club? Then they could exclude any non-members they choose, or admit new members as they see fit.

    Club Leviticus has a nice ring to it.


  16. - Bothanspied - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:11 am:

    47th - No, even with a private club, you cannot discriminate membership based on race, creed, religion


  17. - SKI - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:13 am:

    - Bothanspied - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:11 am:

    “47th - No, even with a private club, you cannot discriminate membership based on race, creed, religion”

    Tell that to some private golf courses in the south….


  18. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:15 am:

    ===47th - No, even with a private club, you cannot discriminate membership based on race, creed, religion===

    Don’t tell the white guys at Old Elm or Bob O’ Link, lol.


  19. - Ghost - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:18 am:

    The courts do not actually consider this, but to me its relevant.

    If you are saying you are enforicng a religious beleif, i.e not just a racist or homophobi belief, then demonstate unifrom appkication of religous rules.

    The bible states that one of the greatest sins against marriage is infidelity. it call for stoning. Sp how often does this establisment deny its favilities tonthose who have been unfaithful? or coverted their neirghbors possesions? or disrespected their parents?

    Its not religious belief if you just pick a single topic, it just homophobia.


  20. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:21 am:

    –Tell that to some private golf courses in the south….–

    The south? Try the North Shore.

    It must be tough running a B-and-B based on Leviticus.

    The cleanliness and food preparation standards alone — talk about regulation.

    But I’m guessing the owners here are just cherry-picking lines from the Old Testament to justify what they want to do anyway.

    They should check out the New Testament one of these days, with the “love thy neighbor as thyself” and “he without sin cast the first stone…”


  21. - Bothanspied - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:21 am:

    haha, not saying it isn’t happening. Just saying that its not a “legal” way to get around the issue that is going to escape the ACLU, especially around this topic


  22. - Patty T - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:24 am:

    There have been designers refusing to work with Melania Trump. Although she is not a protected class, it does seem to be a double standard. I always thought the market & word of mouth would take care of bigoted vendors where competition exists.


  23. - Bothanspied - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:25 am:

    Patty T- The market may resolve it in a diverse area, but that’s not really the point. The law exists for a reason.


  24. - Signal and Noise - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:31 am:

    Bed and Breakfast refuses to cater to gay couples…In other news: Donut Shop Refuses to Serve Police Officers.


  25. - A guy - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 10:33 am:

    I guess Ground Zero for this fight has to be somewhere.

    It’s hard for me to imagine that this place could meet the magical expectation for staying there or hosting an event there.

    Wonder if business has suffered or advanced by virtue of this PR?

    The law is the law. This weekend event could have occurred and been over with without much notice. Doubt the service would be too great given the disposition of the service providers. Probably not tons of great referrals and Yelp reviews from this community would have been made.

    If a business doesn’t respect me or my money, I’d not go there and I’d tell others.

    In business, choosing your customers was never part of the bargain. This whole thing is a great big avoidable mess. It should have been.

    The greatest deadly sin is Pride. The INN owners were wrong. With or without the law.


  26. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 11:02 am:

    How Christian of the owners.

    Me thinks they are not giving the good book a full read.

    Maybe the are reading the Bigot’s version of Bible Cliff’s Notes?


  27. - d.p.gumby - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 11:15 am:

    Tho attributed to OWHolmes, the oft cited “your freedom to swing your arm ends at the tip of my nose” seems equally applicable–your freedom to practice your religion ends when it is imposed upon another’s freedom to ignore/avoid your religion–especially if you are operating a business of public accommodation.


  28. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 12:04 pm:

    “No shirt, no shoes,no service”. Is that legal?


  29. - truth squad - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 12:09 pm:

    Yet clothing designers can refuse to conduct business with Melania Trump and the Left applauds heartily!


  30. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Nov 30, 16 @ 12:15 pm:

    truth squad, that was one of the dumbest comments ever.

    Are you familiar with the concept of public accommodations, and that they have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with someone who brands her name on clothes?


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