B&B ordered to pay $80,000 over refusal to host civil-union ceremony in 2011

B&B ordered to pay $80,000 over refusal to host civil-union ceremony in 2011

SPRINGFIELD — A bed-and-breakfast near Paxton that turned down a same-sex couple's request to hold a civil-union ceremony there in 2011 has been ordered to pay $30,000 in damages to the couple and $50,000 to their attorneys and to stop violating the Illinois Human Rights Act.

Michael R. Robinson, an administrative law judge appointed by the Illinois Human Rights Commission, entered a "recommended order and decision" awarding the damages to Todd and Mark Wathen of Tuscola.

"We are very happy that no other couple will have to experience what we experienced by being turned away and belittled and criticized for who we are," Todd Wathen said. "In addition, the monetary award represents a recognition by the judge that Mark and I suffered a real harm — that we were embarrassed and humiliated."

In September, Robinson ruled that Jim Walder violated the civil rights of the Wathens when he denied them the opportunity to hold their civil-union ceremony at the B&B he co-owns with his wife — the TimberCreek Bed-and-Breakfast west of Paxton.

The landmark ruling marked the first time that the Human Rights Commission made clear that businesses in Illinois must serve the entire public and cannot pick and choose based on their personal religious views.

Following a public hearing held last November in Springfield to consider damages to be awarded to the couple, ACLU attorneys for the Wathens filed briefs to support the couple's request for a "cease and desist" order and for Walder to pay damages for emotional distress, attorneys' fees and costs. Lawyers for the B&B failed to respond in a timely matter, leading to the judge's ruling.

In his written decision last week, Robinson ordered the B&B to:

— Pay $15,000 each to Todd and Mark Wathen as compensation for their emotional distress arising out of the issue.

— Cease and desist from violating the Human Rights Act by denying same-sex couples access to its facilities and services for marriages and civil unions.

— Offer the Wathens access to the facility, within one year, for an event celebrating their civil union.

— Pay the Wathens' attorneys $50,000 in fees and $1,218 in costs.

"It is critical that the judge ordered this entity to end its unlawful practices — practices that discriminate against gay and lesbian couples," said John Knight, LGBT Project director for the ACLU of Illinois. "It is important that we have a clear and undiluted message that denying services to gay and lesbian couples for marriage and civil union ceremonies simply is not permitted in our state."

Walder did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment Tuesday on whether he would fully comply with the judge's order. During November's hearing, he said he would never host same-sex civil unions or weddings at his B&B, even if Illinois law requires it.

"The principle in the Bible for Christians is that Christians need to follow the law unless it contradicts (the Bible)," Walder said.

As of Tuesday, the B&B's website, timbercreekbb.com, stated that the "upscale Christian country Bed & Breakfast" will not host civil unions or gay marriages.

"It is not an issue of fairness or equality, but an issue of right and wrong," the website says. "We cannot be part of what God condemns."

Shortly after Illinois approved civil unions in January 2011, the Wathens began planning theirs for June 4, 2011, the first Saturday after the law would be going into effect. After researching possible locations, Todd Wathen contacted the TimberCreek B&B — which advertised itself as a venue for weddings and other events — and asked if the facility would be holding civil-union ceremonies starting in June.

Walder denied his request, and a few days later he sent an unsolicited email lecturing the Wathens about their "gay lifestyle," adding that "it's not too late to change your behavior."

The Wathens said they never contacted another B&B after that. They ended up being wed in a small ceremony on June 4, 2011, in their back yard — where "no one can turn us away," Todd Wathen said.

Todd Wathen said only about 30 family members and friends attended their wedding due to a lack of space on their property — far short of the 125 they had hoped would have been present if the ceremony was held at a larger venue like the TimberCreek B&B.

"We did it, but it wasn't what we wanted," Todd Wathen said.

Will Brumleve is editor of the Ford County Record, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit fordcountyrecord.com.

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cgirl wrote on March 29, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Yay!

Chambanacitizen wrote on March 29, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Hello Karma! Thanks for visiting the dirt bag owners of this B/B. The world owes ya one!

bkp wrote on March 29, 2016 at 3:03 pm

I support gay marriage but I do not support forcing people into nonvoluntary interactions.

It is the government's place to allow same sex marriage because government regulates marriage. It is not the government's place to force anyone, individual nor corporation, to do anything they object to. If this business is in the wrong, public backlash and lack of customers will punish them.

It is wrong to force anyone to do anything against their will.

chumberley wrote on March 29, 2016 at 4:03 pm

"It is not the government's place to force anyone, individual nor corporation, to do anything they object to."

Yes!  I'm going to tell the IRS that they can't force me to pay taxes because I object!  Oh, and all those stop signs and lights the government intalls, I object to those too.  They really slow down my commute, so I shouldn't be forced to stop if I don't want to.  And I'm sure when my neighbors call the police because I am blaring my music at 3am, the officers will understand that I really object to having to be quiet because the neighbors want to sleep.   And I certainly object to all of these mentions of God in government buildings and on money.  The government shouldn't force me to look at these.

Seriously, no one in a civil society has complete free will, and everyone has to do things they object to.  The government's job is to maintain peace and order while protecting everyone's rights.  That inherently requires forcing people to do things that they object to. 

 

 

 

CarrotCakeMan wrote on March 30, 2016 at 9:03 pm

That'sthe law in Illinois.  You have the same right to lobby state representatives to reverse that law that everyone who support this law exercised to get it passed.

chumberley wrote on March 29, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Their website says far more than that.  Interestingly, they failed to mention their email response to the request.  I guess that doesn't play into their "Christian persecution" narrative.  But I especially enjoy their link to 'Conservapedia' in support of their view.

 

 

On February 15, 2011, Tuesday, we received an innocent-looking email asking if we were intending to host civil union ceremonies.  A month before, the Illinois legislature had passed "The Religious Freedom and Civil Unions Act" which was to go into effect on June 1, 2011.  We replied that we would only be hosting weddings at TimberCreek.  On Friday, only three days later, a sexual orientation discrimination complaint was filed with the Illinois Dept. of Human Rights.  The ACLU has joined the complainants' legal defense team.  The complainants are alleging that they have suffered substantial mental and emotional distress, a stigmatizing injury, and deprivation of personal dignity.  They are requesting damages for the injury, interest, attorney fees, and an order to cease from violating the Act in the future.

     
America was built upon a foundation of religious liberty and Judeo Christian principles.  This heritage is engraved in federal buildings all over our Nation's Capitol.   It is printed on our money.  It is enshrined in the United States Constitution which guarantees the freedom of religious expression.  But now it is under assault by well-funded homosexual activists who demand we surrender religious liberty to their new definition of marriage.   President Obama has been deceived into embracing this far-left agenda.  Even IL Governor Quinn is marching down this same path of perversion.  As Christians, we should absolutely love individuals ensnared in homosexuality, but we should not and cannot condone any part of it because the Bible condemns it.  The Creator of the Universe is no one to defy.

        
Homosexuality is a behavioral choice which has been historically viewed as immoral, sinful, and an abomination to God in Judeo Christian belief for over 6,000 years. This lifestyle can be adopted and abandoned.  Yet it is being championed as equal to immutable human characteristics such as race, color, gender, creed, age, and national origin.  It uses anti-discrimination laws as a bully club when dissenting Americans disagree with men trying to marry men, women marrying women, men changing to women, and women changing to men.  It basically says that God is confused by marriage, family, and sexuality and that we need to correct his mistakes.  
                                                                         ______________

 

We politely disagree.  God is not confused.  His Word clearly illustrates and declares that marriage is between one man and one woman.  It also labels homosexuality as an abominable sin throughout the Old and New Testaments.  God's Word is the ultimate authority, infallible, and unchanging.  It is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  His Word cannot be changed by a vote of the Illinois General Assembly when it passed the Civil Unions Act or the Gay Marriage Bill.  Marriage is only appropriate God's way.  Sexuality   is only appropriate God's way.  

Consequently, we cannot host civil unions or gay marriages at TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast.  It is not an issue of fairness or equality, but an issue of right and wrong.  We cannot be part of what God condemns.  Be assured that we are not lawless, hateful, judgmental, bigoted, or activists by any definition.  We did notinitiate the present controversy.  We are not the ones who voted to change the 6,000 year-old definition of marriage.  We are just small business owners trying to be consistent in following God's Word and living it out practically in our lives. 

CarrotCakeMan wrote on March 30, 2016 at 9:03 pm

I agree that the anti-gays who broke the law clearly intended, before this couple went to them, to break that law, and the filth on their website meant to demean, demonize and dehumanize LGBT Americans proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.  We have come to that point where what anti-gays think and say is clearly what is truly "perverse."  However, this is a family newspaper, so I hope parents reading the awful anti-gay Hate Speech will keep it away from children.

ewe wrote on March 29, 2016 at 6:03 pm

Pay up!!!!! 

CarrotCakeMan wrote on March 30, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Actually, anti-gays committing this sort of crime have a history of not paying one thin dime.  This article doesn't mention the attorney who bailed on the anti-gay criminal, but I bet that attorney is associated with the "Alliance Defending Freedom of Faith."

 

This “Alliance” is going around the country seeking to incite anti-gay bakers, photographers, florists, and other wedding industry suppliers to target same gender couples, attack them and violate these laws, promising to defend the anti-gays in court and the media for free and pay all fines involved BEFORE these crimes are committed. These "Alliance" lawyers are involved in ALL these cases.  And then anti-gays dishonestly claim LGBT Americans are targeting THEM!

 

Want proof?  This "Alliance" admit all that at their website.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on March 31, 2016 at 2:03 am
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Hey genius, he's not a "criminal."   A fundamentalist idiot, sure, but not a criminal.   It was a civil case.   Learn some reading comprehension skills.

CarrotCakeMan wrote on March 31, 2016 at 12:03 pm

You have a habit of demonizing those who don't agree with you.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on March 31, 2016 at 2:03 pm
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That's what you've been doing all over this comment thread.   You automatically assume that anyone who doesn't agree with either you or this couple 100% is anti-gay.

You get out what you put in, chief.

PSL wrote on March 29, 2016 at 10:03 pm

That's pretty funny, but unfortunately we still don't know what the homophobic innkeepers think about the dancing stereotype that used to by the mascot of the University of Illinois

rsp wrote on March 29, 2016 at 11:03 pm

The Wathens said they never contacted another B&B after that.

That's interesting, because in 2011 they said they contacted Beall Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Alton and TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast near Paxton, Ill.,and after they couldn't get accommodations they were offered the use of another facility but it "didn't have any dates available", which sounds odd because why would you offer someone the use of your facility if there aren't any dates open? This sounds more to me like an opportunity to get some money.

 

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/alton-gay-wedding-di...

alabaster jones 71 wrote on March 30, 2016 at 12:03 am
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I strongly support gay marriage, but I don't see why the B&B should have to pay the couple a single cent.

These guys just wanted some free cash, that's all.   "Emotional distress?"   Put your big boy pants on, get over it, and take your wedding to a place that's more welcoming.

BruckJr wrote on March 30, 2016 at 11:03 am

The majority of the money goes to the ambulance chasers, of course.  Follow the money if you want to see the impetus behind these lawsuits.

mtnjak wrote on March 30, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Free cash indeed.

CarrotCakeMan wrote on March 30, 2016 at 9:03 pm

Alabaster says he supports "gay marriage," but rushes to make a very negative judgement about the couple.  This report states the anti-gay owner even attacked them in writing subsequently, a needless personal attack. 

alabaster jones 71 wrote on March 31, 2016 at 2:03 am
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LOL at the quotation marks around gay marriage.    What is that all about?

Based on all of your comments, you sure seem to be very personally invested in this case.   Are you Mark, or are you Todd?   Which one?   Or are you their lawyer?

CarrotCakeMan wrote on March 31, 2016 at 12:03 pm

That's to indicate my disbelief at your claim you support marriage equality.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on March 31, 2016 at 2:03 pm
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I had no idea that supporting gay marriage requires one to thereby support every lawsuit filed by gay individuals as well.   Fascinating.

cgirl wrote on April 01, 2016 at 8:04 pm

The B&B broke the anti discrimination law. That's why they paid.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on April 02, 2016 at 1:04 pm
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No kidding.  

I'm just sick and tired of how lawsuit-happy our society has become.

IMO, it would make much more sense for any money seized from the B&B to go towards a charity or organization that assists those in the gay community.

Sancho Panza wrote on March 30, 2016 at 12:03 am

Sad day for the First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech in Illinois.  The power of the state was used to punish the couple that owns this B&B because they wouldn't arbitrarily expand the scope of their business and wrote an email that contradicted the gay couple’s opinion.

CarrotCakeMan wrote on March 30, 2016 at 10:03 pm

So if someone called YOU an "abomination before God," you'd think it was just a difference of opinion instead of a vicious personal attack?

What if that same someone wrote you AGAIN after that first attack, and attacked you more?

That's what the anti-gay criminal did.

GeneralLeePeeved wrote on March 30, 2016 at 10:03 am

When you decide to open a business to the public.....it means ALL of the public.   You don't get to hand pick your customers.   Your religious views don't allow you to be a bigot.....no matter how sincere they are.  I'm curious to see how they respond to the cease and desist order......I'm guessing they end up in court again.....and will lose.....again.

wayward wrote on March 30, 2016 at 12:03 pm

It does sound like there may have been some activism going on, given that Paxton is further from Tuscola than C-U, and there are a fair number of places in town that would have no problem with a same-sex wedding.  Nonetheless, it's illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, so the couple was in the right.  If we just said that private businesses should be able to do whatever they wanted on their property, would it be OK if a restaurant decided to serve only white people?

rsp wrote on March 30, 2016 at 2:03 pm

They actually called two places who turned them down, a third place contacted them and offered them that option but they said they didn't want it. It makes me wonder if they would have actually rented the place or were they just looking for places to sue.

CarrotCakeMan wrote on March 30, 2016 at 9:03 pm

Wow.  No little attempt to be nice, you went right to a character attack on people you don't know.  Don't bother to claim anti-gays "don't hate" LGBT Americans.

mtnjak wrote on March 30, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Isn't it amazing how we live in a world now where the perverse is celebrated and promoted, even by our government, and normal is now hated and persecuted more than ever before.

CarrotCakeMan wrote on March 30, 2016 at 9:03 pm

This is about a wedding ceremony, not some wild fantasies about a wedding night.

 

Readers who would like to see the scientific evidence for why anti-gay posters are so obsessed with what they IMAGINE same gender couples do in private should Google "Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies."

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on March 30, 2016 at 10:03 pm
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I suppose it is perverse, assuming you're basing your morals on the wisdom of some middle-eastern desert nomads who lived about 2,600 years ago and didn't know about germs, or that the earth rotates around the sun.

Now remember, if you're going to base a society on that wisdom, be prepared to stone your daughters to death if, on their wedding night, they are discovered not to be virgins. (Deuteronomy 22:21)

Fortis99 wrote on March 31, 2016 at 4:03 pm

What happened to TOLERANCE?

Tolerance of those who believe differently than you do? It works both ways. Tolerance of those whom you deem to be "offensive" or "immoral" because you are not their judge? Tolerance of those who feel they should be judging you? It's a very simple thing.

Live and let live.

If you don't like the answer at the first place, try the second.

No use crying over spilt milk.

Have some dignity.

If everyone followed the Golden Rule, there would be no need for laws like this.

Yep, I live in a dream world...

 

 

hermom wrote on April 01, 2016 at 2:04 pm

A business that provides an "optional" service should be able to refuse service to anyone for any reason.  That being said, why in the world would you want to FORCE a business to take your money and provide you their service. It seems like it would be much more effective to get together and protest them.  Why support a business that doesn't want to support you?

hermom wrote on April 01, 2016 at 2:04 pm

A business that provides an "optional" service should be able to refuse service to anyone for any reason.  That being said, why in the world would you want to FORCE a business to take your money and provide you their service. It seems like it would be much more effective to get together and protest them.  Why support a business that doesn't want to support you?

Chambanacitizen wrote on April 01, 2016 at 3:04 pm

For all you gay-bashers that think this couple actively sought out someone to sue...that "Paxton is further from Tuscola than Champaign" You never considered that Champaign doesn't have somewhere as beautiful and secluded as the B/B? Isn't it possible they just wanted that specific setting? So when other places here of these evil idiot owners, they offer their space. They are supposed to just settle? If you were told "you cannot marry here because I don't recognize you as in line with my thoughts".. You would just say" oh. OK. I'll go somewhere else not as nice". I doubt it.

Moreland6 wrote on April 02, 2016 at 6:04 pm

This is so wrong!!! We are Catholic , lord help us if we try to honor our ways in anything ! But let the gays force their ways on us.. Well that's ok..,I hope you choke on the money..  After all that's all you wanted .. And look at the scum laywers got 50 k.. Ok..and you got your 15 minutes of fame! .. This was a B&B .. These folks home.. They are Christians! We honor your sins from God.. But you can't honor our beliefs in our homes or business! Why force your sins on us! 

Moreland6 wrote on April 02, 2016 at 6:04 pm

This is so wrong!!! We are Catholic , lord help us if we try to honor our ways in anything ! But let the gays force their ways on us.. Well that's ok..,I hope you choke on the money..  After all that's all you wanted .. And look at the scum laywers got 50 k.. Ok..and you got your 15 minutes of fame! .. This was a B&B .. These folks home.. They are Christians! We honor your sins from God.. But you can't honor our beliefs in our homes or business! Why force your sins on us! 

cgirl wrote on April 04, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Being gay isn't a sin if you're not Christian...hence it's not forcing a sin on you. And its not their home, it's a business. Part of being a business is following anti discrimination laws. It's that simple.

KateOHanlanMD wrote on April 12, 2016 at 1:04 pm

What few folks understand is that when someone registers a business, regardless of their religion or personal biases, they commit to follow state non-discrimination laws. As a surgeon licensed by my state, I still must provide care to folks who have lives that I don't agree with. I am not endorsing their beliefs or behaviors with my surgery, but I must not discriminate in offering care. Same for all businesses.

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