A Christian-owned Bed & Breakfast in Illinois must host same-sex weddings or pay fines, the Christian Post is reporting. Further, the facility must pay $30,000 to a same-sex couple for whom the owners declined to host a wedding in 2011.
Built in 2003 to resemble a Victorian farmhouse, TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast, near the eastern Illinois community of Paxton, is an ideal location for someone looking for a unique spot for a wedding.
In 2011, the same year Illinois legalized same-sex civil unions, according to the Chicago Tribune, Todd and Mark Walthen, a same-sex couple, approached TimberCreek owner Jim Walder about hosting their wedding ceremony. What was said in their meeting remains unclear, but the final result was that the bed & breakfast refused to host the wedding, citing the owners’ religious beliefs.
“We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the Bible says about it. If that is discrimination, I guess we unfortunately discriminate.”
The couple, which later found another venue to host their wedding and got married in 2013, when Illinois legalized same-sex marriages, took their complaint to the Illinois Human Rights Commission.
In March, 2016, Judge Michael R. Robinson sided with the same-sex couple, ordering TimberCreek to pay each plaintiff $15,000 in damages, plus another $50,000 in legal fees.
“[Walder must] pay each Complainant $15,000, which represents damages for the emotional distress arising out [of] its refusal to host their same-sex, civil union ceremony… [Walder must] be directed to cease and desist from violating the Human Rights Act by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation when denying same-sex couples access to its facilities and services for their civil union ceremonies and/or marriages.”
Walder appealed that ruling, and this week, a three-judge panel of the Illinois Human Rights Commission refused to hear his appeal, essentially letting stand the earlier ruling and forcing him to pay the fines as well as stop refusing to host same-sex weddings.
Walder says he will do no such thing: as of this writing, the TimberCreek website states that the venue will not host same-sex weddings or civil unions.
Speaking to local newspaper the Paxton Record, Walder claimed that he didn’t get a fair chance during his appeal because two of the three members of the panel that ruled against him are either openly gay or gay-rights activists.
“Assigning two out of three commissioners who are either LGBT activists or openly gay to review our case is corrupt and indefensible. Both commissioners should have honorably recused themselves from the review.”
Jason Craddock, the Chicago attorney representing Walden in his legal proceedings, says he will continue to fight the decision until all possible appeals are exhausted.
“We will keep fighting, of course — first appealing to the entire commission, and then onto the (Illinois) Appellate Court, and beyond if necessary.”
Meanwhile, TimberCreek owner Jim Walder has set up a crowdfunding campaign to cover his legal bills. As of this writing, the campaign has generated $43,500 – 29 percent of its goal of raising $150,000.
For their part, the couple originally denied their wedding at TimberCreek say they are pleased with the decision, according to Pink News.
“We are very happy that no other couple will have to experience what we experienced by being turned away and belittled and criticised for who we are.”
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) director John Knight agrees with that sentiment.
“Business owners cannot pick-and-choose to follow laws simply because they personally disagree with same-sex couples’ decision to marry.”
Do agree with the Illinois Human Rights Commission that TimberCreek should be forced to host same-sex weddings?
[Featured Image by Syda Productions/Shutterstock]