B&B owner says he won't host gay weddings

B&B owner says he won't host gay weddings

PAXTON — For almost two years, Jim Walder has not allowed civil-union ceremonies at his bed-and-breakfast near Paxton. And come June, same-sex weddings will be next on the list of activities to be legally recognized in Illinois, yet banned at the TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast.

"As long as I own TimberCreek, there will never be a gay marriage at this wedding venue," Walder said.

Walder, a Christian, has stood up publicly for his religious freedoms since 2011, when a gay couple from Mattoon filed a civil-rights complaint alleging he discriminated against them when he refused to host their civil-union ceremony at his business, which advertises itself as a site for weddings and other special events.

As he continues to await a ruling on that complaint by the Illinois Human Rights Commission, Walder is now expecting further legal battles once the new state law legalizing same-sex marriages goes into effect June 1. He hopes state lawmakers can amend the law to allow businesses like his to choose whether they want to allow gay marriages on their properties, based on their personal beliefs.

"I totally support exemptions for everyone doing business in the wedding industry regarding civil unions or gay marriage," Walder said, warning that "our current legal predicament could be the predicament of other businesses in Paxton, as well," such as photographers, caterers, cake bakers or wedding planners.

State Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, is among the lawmakers pushing for a change.

Harms said he voted last year against the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act because, among other reasons, "businesses will be forced to host, cater or otherwise serve gay weddings, even if their religion forbids it."

Harms said he had planned to draft legislation to protect "the rights of those individuals and businesses that have religious objections to gay weddings," but he has since narrowed the focus of the proposed legislation. Harms said he now is working to draft a bill that would expand the law to "protect all entities controlled by the church" — specifically, private schools affiliated with churches.

'A hard sell'

The law says that "religious facilities" are not required to host same-sex weddings if against a church's religious beliefs, but that exemption does not apply to educational facilities.

Some churches operate schools that rent out space to the public, Harms said.

"What we're trying to get done right now is just something to protect all the entities that are under (the control of) the church," Harms said.

Harms said he still wants the law changed to protect the religious freedom of business owners, too, but he opted to limit his bill's scope because it has "the highest probability for success" in passing the House and Senate.

"I think (the legislation protecting business owners) will be a hard sell," Harms noted. "I've been talking to some other reps about carrying the other one that will give a personal objection exemption (to business owners). But I think it will be very hard to get through (into law)."

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, the only Republican senator to vote in support of the same-sex marriage law, said he would consider supporting Harms' legislation. But Barickman indicated he would not support any bill introduced to exempt business owners from hosting gay marriages. Banning gay weddings but allowing heterosexual weddings would be discrimination, he said.

"As far as the bed-and-breakfast goes, their ability to turn away same-sex couples is prohibited by the Human Rights Act," Barickman said. "They are unable to say 'no' to a same-sex couple not because of the same-sex marriage law that just passed, but because of the anti-discrimination law that passed long before Rep. Harms and myself were in the legislature."

Harms said he expects issues to arise with businesses refusing to host gay weddings once the law is in effect.

The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based nonprofit public interest law firm that has been at the forefront of the gay marriage debate in Illinois, said in a news release on its website that it is prepared to file litigation if that happens.

'Attack on freedom'

"The idea that free people can be 'compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives' as the 'price of citizenship' is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom," said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel at the Thomas More Society.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, meanwhile, said it will continue to fight for the rights of gay and lesbian couples.

"Entities that conduct business with the public are bound by Illinois law not to discriminate against customers for a range of reasons, including sexual orientation," said Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Illinois. "The notion that we would carve out an exception to these laws for businesses that want to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples is something that we oppose strenuously.

"If such a carve-out is allowed, what next? Could a business say that they have a religious objection to folks of other religious beliefs, or against women? We do not let people pick and choose which nondiscrimination laws they follow. We enforce the law for the benefit of everyone. Changing that policy invites chaos."

The ACLU is representing Todd and Mark Wathen in their civil-rights complaint against Walder and his bed-and-breakfast. Yohnka said "the case is fully briefed and we are simply awaiting a decision" by a hearing officer for the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Chicago attorney Jason R. Craddock is representing Walder. Craddock works for the Thomas More Society but is taking on the Walder case on his own at this point, he said.

Craddock said he is arguing that no discrimination took place because, first of all, the Wathens never asked to rent the Walder property.

According to Walder, Mark Wathen emailed him and asked, "Do you plan on doing same sex civil unions starting on June 1st????" But a request to rent the facility was never made, Walder said.

Because Walder opposed holding civil union ceremonies at his bed-and-breakfast for religious reasons, Craddock said it would be a violation of Walder's First Amendment rights if the Human Rights Commission were to side in the Wathens' favor.

If that happens, Craddock said the decision would be appealed, and if the decision is still upheld, litigation would be the next step.

Craddock said there is concern that the impending decision may set a precedent for future similar cases. "So it's extremely important that we keep fighting for the rights of people like Jim Walder and others who want to exercise their liberty to do business," Craddock said.

'Business is up'

Walder said the Wathens' complaint has "caused us to lose a few weddings with brides and grooms who do not agree and decide to take their business elsewhere, but that's OK. Overall our business is up substantially since the Wathens filed their complaint. We hosted 26 weddings last year."

Walder said he has received several inquiries from same-sex couples seeking to use his facilities, including a recent email from "a female who supposedly fell in love with TimberCreek from our website and wanted to have her lesbian wedding here."

The TimberCreek website lists Walder's position against same-sex marriages and civil unions.

"If you go to http://www.timbercreekbb.com/history, towards the bottom of the page you will find what I believe and how I look at the issue. It is posted there for the world to see," Walder said.

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trysomethingnew wrote on January 20, 2014 at 9:01 am

I think America is built on people standing on their beliefs and their principals and I don't think this is any different.  I read the website and it looked to me like the B&B owners are just asking people to respect their beliefs and their buisiness.  How can we have had hundreds of thousands of people flock to America to avoid religious persecution, to now alienate those same groups of people? I feel we have been hyprocrites on the gay marriage issue.  We want to be fair and equal, but only if other groups believe what is necessary to make others feel they are fair and equal.  I feel its wrong to force people to change their beliefs to accommdate other people.  You get alot furhter with people when its not about forcing them to see your point, but when you truly see theirs.  Why not host your event where you are welcome and peole are happy for you.  To force thse B&B to host an event they dont want, if their heart isnt in it how good will it be? There are so many places that are welcoming and if I were them, I would take my business elsewhere.  Everything doesn't have to be decided before the Supreme Court. 

btinc wrote on January 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

This person is selling his services to the public.  He's free to believe what he wants, but if he's selling a wedding venu, he has to sell it to anyone who can legally marry.

What if he believed that a woman's place is in the home, and that she shouldn't travel without her husband?  Would he have the right to refuse to rent a room to a woman traveling alone?

No one is forcing him to change his beliefs.  He should, however, be forced to not discriminate in his business dealings.

Batman wrote on January 20, 2014 at 11:01 am

I think the 6000 year old Judeo-Christian beliefs the B&B owners refer to on their website also say you cannot discriminate against any human being.  So if you truly practice the very J-C beliefs you espouse, then I suggest you stop discriminating.

amf wrote on January 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm

trysomethingnew: would you have the same opinion of a real estate agent or banker who refuses to conduct business with a single woman buying a home because his religious beliefs dictate that women should not own property?  What about a physician who refuses to provide medical treatment to an unmarried pregnant woman because of his religious beliefs?  No one is telling these business people what they can or cannot believe.  The laws simply make it clear that one cannot use one's religion as an excuse to discriminate based on protected status.  The provider of services to the public may not discriminate.  Period.  If one's religious beliefs prevent one from lawfully conducting business, perhaps one should not choose to conduct such business.  If one does choose to operate a business to the public, then one must abide by the law.  Very simple.   

sfmike64 wrote on January 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm

AMF is right. 

Would this be different if the venue refused to host a black and white couple marrying because the owner didn't believe in "race mixing?" Of course not. Or a Jewish wedding because the owner was a Christian? Nope.

It's the same thing. We have public accomodations laws for a reason. This, in fact, is the reason.

Honestly, though, I can't imagine why anyone would want to have a gay wedding at a place that is so unwelcoming. Why give them your money?

btinc wrote on January 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm

People really don't understand what "religious freedom" means, and what public accomodation laws are.

This person has every right to adhere to whatever religious beliefs he wants to.  But if he wants to sell a product or service to the public, he has to sell it to everyone who wants it.  Otherwise, someone could claim that being Japanese or African American is against their religion, and claim the right to not serve them.  And, yes, it is comparable, because no one chooses their sexual orientation any more than their race.

Religious freedom doesn't mean you get to foist your beliefs on the public.

nndsmom wrote on January 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Here's what I said about this article when it appeared on the Paxton Record website, so I repeat it here:

 

As a devout Christian, I also believe that God is the ultimate authority, infallible, and unchanging.

To that end, I bring to your attention the following Biblical passages:

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

1 Corinthians 7:7-9 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

James 4:12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

1 Timothy 4:2-5 Through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

 

Given these, how can you not show love to your gay neighbors any less than you do to other neighbors?  Does God love gay people less than straight people?  Of course not!  God created all, God loves all.  Treat all with respect and kindness and compassion.  Let God worry about judging.

Mantronikk wrote on January 21, 2014 at 10:01 am

Jesus defines marriage as being only between one man and one woman in Matthew 19:4-6.

Matthew 19:6  "Therefore WHAT God has joined together, let no one seperate."  The "what" pertains the definition of marriage.  It would be "whom" if Jesus were only speaking of divorce.

 

 

virgil g wrote on January 23, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Of course Genesis 2:23-24 has some interesting things on marriage.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

 

Which is really interesting since they were the only 2 people, and shouldn't have known what a mother and father was...

susselsprout wrote on January 20, 2014 at 4:01 pm

So, it's not enough that gay people will have the right to marry. They must also stamp out the religious rights and consciences of business owners who do not wish to assist them in that pursuit?


I rather liked the response of a woman named "Barbara" (whom I do not know) in a commentary I read recently. 


She said, "If I were a Christian business owner, my response would be to accept the order but then make it clear to the client that I am doing so under protest and will be donating 100% of the proceeds of the sale to Focus on the Family. If the gay couple wants to use the system as a sledgehammer against dissent, well, as it is a democracy, two can play at that game."

btinc wrote on January 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Business owners do not have the right to discriminate as to whom they sell their services.  It's called "public accomodation law."  It supercedes what you are calling "religious rights" in the public economic arena.

As a gay man, I would not want to give my business to someone who discriminates, but to start with, he doesn't have that right to discriminate.

I think your quote from "Barbara" is a great tactic to use, and legal.  I would hope that those gay people she buys services from would do the same thing when they find out that she's a bigot, only donating the money to the Human Rights Campaign.

In fact, most corporations already do.

Nice Davis wrote on January 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Nobody is stamping out anybody's religious rights. Grow up.

I'm heartened to see that the majority of commenters are speaking out against bigotry.

bayhuntr wrote on January 20, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Kind of the same as alowing blacks to marry, but making it clear that 100% of the proceded will be donated to the KKK.  Good for Barbara.  Focus On the Family is a registered hate group.

ewe wrote on January 21, 2014 at 8:01 pm

It's a hotel. Not a temple. Save your bs for the courts. 

ewe wrote on January 22, 2014 at 6:01 am

Go right ahead and play your game of hatred. Ours isn't and the sooner you realize that no one is seeking your approval to obtain equality that you enjoy, want to withhold from others and take for granted the sooner you may take a look in the mirror and see that gay people don't care what you think bigot. Now get back in your temple of doom and stop bothering us. 

Joe American wrote on January 20, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Wow, look at all lthe intolerance which crept its way into the board today.

Those crying the loudest are clearly showing their intolerance of others' beliefs. 

Pretty typical hypocricy.

Nice Davis wrote on January 20, 2014 at 8:01 pm

I'm with you. It's disgusting how Walder and his supporters are so intolerant of most Illinoisans' belief that business owners shouldn't be able to discriminate against customers simply on the basis of sexual identity.

Joe American wrote on January 20, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Don't give up your day job.  Cutting-edge sarcasm and wit are not your strong point. 

Keep up the intolerance, Davey.

Nice Davis wrote on January 20, 2014 at 10:01 pm

This from a guy who thinks the Greensboro Four were too "intolerant" of the lunch counter seating policy at Woolworth's

Joe American wrote on January 21, 2014 at 9:01 am

Good to see you're admitting your shortcomings.  It's a great first step in overcoming your intolerance.

C-U Townie wrote on January 20, 2014 at 7:01 pm

I heard a speaker say this during her presentation. She said that if we do not protect the rights of everyone then everyone is at risk. That it might begin with the "usual suspects" (groups who are commonly discriminated against) but eventually those who discriminate will move to include more individuals/groups using the same BS reasoning. Hatred breeds more hatred. 

The owner of the B&B is trying to appear diplomatic, but under the guise of religious freedom. He is entitled to believe however he wants to believe. However, it is the action that he puts behind that belief that is a true testament to his religious beliefs and eligible for legal recourse. If he wants to run a business that is open to the public then his services cannot be exclusively offered to, or for that matter not offered, to specific groups. 

I can't imagine that the business is so lucrative that he can afford to discriminate. And similarly, he can't afford to alienate himself from customers he prefers to serve but who will not patronize his establishment because he is discriminating. 

The irony is that he's turning away individuals who are promoting love (by way of their wedding) and opting to promote his own brand of hatred: discrimination. 

EMT wrote on January 20, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Show some tolerance to the man--he is living out his faith.  Or, is your tolerance only reserved for a select few?  

Nice Davis wrote on January 21, 2014 at 7:01 am

It's not intolerant to chastise this individual for willfully breaking state anti-discrimination laws. Especially when it's 100% certain he picks and chooses only those parts of religious dogma that he wants to follow.

There's nobody who whines louder than a straight white Christian male who thinks he's being "persecuted" when he's asked to extend the same treatment to every customer in his business dealings.

ewe wrote on January 22, 2014 at 6:01 am

Since when is prejudice living out your faith? It's very sad that people belong to religions that do not promote intelligence and love. 

Lance Dixon wrote on January 21, 2014 at 12:01 am

Bull Connor was standing up for "Christian" beliefs as well, with dogs and fire hoses. Happy MLK Day! Same old ignorance, different century. 

Sandy wrote on January 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

Years ago I remember watching Lester Maddox explain why it was perfectly okay to refuse to serve blacks at his restaurant because of private property rights. The argument that a business owner can pick and choose who he wishes to serve died with with the legitimacy of the segregationist cause (I hope).

Let those who wish to refuse to serve gay people publicize their objections so those who do not share their prejudice can take their business elsewhere. This is not religious freedom; it is discrimination. You don't have to be gay to want your fellow citizens to have the same protections that you do.

 

David in Houston wrote on January 21, 2014 at 9:01 am

A few things to keep in mind:

1. The owner is one doing the discriminating, not the gay couple. So he is the one that's demanding that our society be tolerant of his 'chosen' intolerance. Choosing to become religious does NOT give you a free-pass to discriminate outside of your church.

2. A bed & breakfast is NOT a church, and the owner is NOT a pastor. It is a place of business, that is required to treat all citizens equally under the law.

3. His religion does NOT forbid him to serve so-called "sinners". I can guarantee that he's hosted weddings for straight sinners. But since their private lives are none of his business (just like the private lives of gay customers), he isn't aware of their sins. That also makes him a hypocrite for not applying his "deeply held" religious standards to straight couples too. Why isn't he screening his prospective straight couples to find out if they've had affairs, or have been married before, or have been having sex out of wedlock? I'm guessing he doesn't want to lose a sale. So much for his religious convictions, huh?

 

btinc wrote on January 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Nicely stated.

RCChicago wrote on January 21, 2014 at 11:01 am

I too read the website and was struck by the similarity between what I read there and signs historically posted outside Miami Beach hotels in the 1930s: "Always a view, Never a Jew" or simply, "No Jews Allowed." Americans are not all Christians, nor are we all Christian in the same way...In spite of the owners' claims to love their fellow humans as Christians, their animus is inherent in their belief systems, as articulated in their choice of language. The website states that even Governor Quinn "is marching down this same path of perversion," that "homosexuality is a behavorial choice," a "lifestyle that can be adopted and abandoned." A gay couple in love the only way they know how to be and wanting to commit their lives to each other is dismissed as perversion. Science supporting the fact that sexual orientation as instrinsic is likewise dismissed. And there is the use of the word "life-style" which is always baffling to those who don't consider their lives to be all that much different than their neighbors'. It bears repeating that religious liberty does not mean that one is free to inflict one's choice of religion and its tenants upon others. "Liberty" doesn't come with qualifiers. Adherence to the law ought to be fairly straightforward: as a business owner, you may not discriminate. Period. No reasoning, no justification of your beliefs provides you the right to discriminate in the public sphere. Again, period. Rational thought is what elevated our country in its beginning and should continue to elevate it today.  

Mantronikk wrote on January 21, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Does a homosexual owner of a t-shirt shop/store have the right to refuse to print

 "God hates f**s" on  t-shirt? 

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm

He should just print the truthful version "God is hate"

Nice Davis wrote on January 21, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I bet all the people standing up for this guy are big fans of this bill being sponsored in Arizona: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/01/20/arizona-bill-allows-businesses-to-discriminate-against-unmarried-women-non-christians/

ewe wrote on January 21, 2014 at 8:01 pm

I suggest they sell cause they are going to lose as well they should , FYI to all you bigots hiding behind religion. 1) god has absolutely nothing to do with your brand of hate labeled religion and 2) all court cases are not about gaining the approval or permission of each business owner encountered. Bunch of fools. Pack your bags cause you're about to lose your business. Thank god. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 22, 2014 at 3:01 pm

It is Paxton.  What do people expect?  Thankfully, the interstate does not go through Paxton.  It is the little Right town (not referring to direction).  The owner will lose his case, and probably his business; but he is a hero in the community. 

Media articles on religion, guns, and dogs always generate comments; and sell newspapers.   

Batman wrote on January 23, 2014 at 11:01 am

I own a brick and mortar retail operation.  Before I allow any customer in the store I make them complete a 5-page application that covers everything from their sexual orientation, religious beliefs, country of birth, criminal record, DNA profile, marital status, ethical beliefs, Facebook ID, etc. etc.  You get the drift.  This application is then reviewed by one of my super-intelligent dogs and a decision is made as to whether to grant or deny them entry rights in to the store, so they can spend $5.  What I find really strange, is virtually every customer gets exasperated and leaves after completing page 1.  I just don't get it.

GeneralLeePeeved wrote on January 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm

.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Maybe, it's the dogs? ;)