Appellate court upholds dismissal of Paxton B&B's appeal of penalties

Appellate court upholds dismissal of Paxton B&B's appeal of penalties

SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois appeals court is standing by its decision to dismiss a Paxton bed-and-breakfast's appeal of $80,000 in penalties imposed by the state's Human Rights Commission in connection with the discrimination of a same-sex couple.

The Fourth District of the Illinois Appellate Court entered an order Wednesday denying a motion filed by Chicago attorney Jason Craddock that had asked the court to reverse the dismissal of the appeal.

Craddock filed the appeal on behalf of Jim Walder, co-owner of the TimberCreek Bed-and-Breakfast west of Paxton, who is facing penalties that include paying $30,000 to Todd and Mark Wathen for their emotional distress and paying the Wathens' attorneys $50,000 in fees.

The penalties were imposed last year by a three-member panel of the Human Rights Commission, as recommended by an administrative law judge appointed by the commission. The judge and panel both found that Walder violated the civil rights of the Wathens, who live in Tuscola, by refusing to host their civil-union ceremony at his B&B in 2011, and then sending them a series of emails citing Biblical verses and denouncing homosexuality as "wrong and unnatural."

On May 30, the appellate court entered an order dismissing Craddock's appeal, which had been filed in December. Craddock later filed a motion asking the court to vacate the dismissal.

Craddock argued that the motion for dismissal — which was filed by the Wathens' attorneys — was mailed to him at an incorrect address, one he has not used in four years. As a result, Craddock said, he did not receive the motion until May 22, delaying his response until May 27. The court subsequently granted the Wathens' motion without receiving or considering Craddock's response, he said.

Craddock asked the appellate court to vacate its dismissal of the appeal, reinstate the case and reconsider a previously filed extension to file a brief.

The Wathens' attorneys, however, noted that the case's dismissal was based on "a series of failures to comply with deadlines and rules violations."

Craddock said Wednesday he would continue to contest the decision.

"I believe there are factual and legal errors in the court's order, and we continue appealing to the furthest extent," Craddock said in an email to the Ford County Record. "I am confident that ultimately the issues will be addressed on their merits."

Besides fines, the Human Rights Commission's sanctions against the B&B include the establishment ceasing and desisting from violating the Human Rights Act and the B&B offering the Wathens access to the facility, within one year, for an event celebrating their civil union.

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

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CallSaul wrote on August 16, 2017 at 11:08 pm

The bigots lose again but at least the lawyer keeps finding ways to take more and more of the bigots' money...

Esteve wrote on August 17, 2017 at 5:08 am

Privately people might regard this as bigotry but the legal questions are serious ones and not at all clear cut. The Supreme Court has had real difficulty in creating a decent jurisprudence around the Free Exercise Clause, and if you support the Constitution you should hope at least the Court finds an acceptable way to reconcile the two competing rights. 

CallSaul wrote on August 17, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Do you also find the prohibition of discriminating against people base on their race, religions, nationality, etc constitutionally questionable...?

Freedom of religion does not mean freedom to discriminate...