Illinois B&B Fined For LGBTQ Discrimination Loses Appeal

timbercreek bed and breakfast lawsuit

After refusing to accommodate a same-sex civil union ceremony in 2011, TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast in central Illinois lost a court battle waged by the state Human Rights Commission. The commission filed a complaint based on the business’ violation of state public accommodation law forbidding business owners from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The initial court case came to a close last year when Timbercreek was 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.

By the end of 2016, the legal representation for Timbercreek Bed & Breakfast owner Jim Walder filed an appeal with the Illinois appellate court. That appeal was just denied.

In the appeal, attorney Jason Craddock asked the court to review the “recommended order and decision” issued by administrative law judge Michael R. Robinson in the original decision including the amounts the business was ordered to pay.

The Springfield News-Gazette reported:

In Craddock’s petition for review with the court, he asked it to review the “recommended order and decision” that Michael R. Robinson, an administrative law judge appointed by the Illinois Human Rights Commission, entered in 2015 against the B&B — and the $80,000 in fines and other penalties that come with it.

Craddock said Thursday he would be challenging the dismissal of the appeal. He noted that the motion for dismissal — filed by attorneys representing the Illinois Human Rights Commission and Mark and Todd Wathen, the same-sex couple who were denied the opportunity to hold their civil-union ceremony at Walder’s B&B in 2011 — had been “sent to the wrong address,” which delayed his response to the motion.

“I responded as soon as I received it, but believe (my response) crossed in the mail with the court’s dismissal,” Craddock said in an email to the Ford County Record.

When reached for comment Thursday, Walder called the appellate court’s order to dismiss the case “a misunderstanding” and “a non-story.”

“Jason Craddock had requested more time to file a brief, and evidently it was overlooked by the judge,” Walder said.

Meanwhile, Mark and Todd Wathen (the couple the business discriminated against) are happy with the state’s ongoing support of their rights.

“We are thrilled by the court’s ruling,” Todd Wathen said. “We hope that this brings an end to this matter and sends a very clear signal to all businesses in Illinois that they must follow our state’s laws.”

Clay Tillack, an attorney at the Chicago office of Schiff Hardin LLP who has worked pro bono with the ACLU on the case since 2012, added, “There can be no doubt about the state of the law in Illinois after this matter has been resolved – discrimination in publicly available venues simply is not permitted.”

John Knight of the ACLU of Illinois also issued a statement saying in part, “It is important that the Illinois Human Rights Commission’s final order stands.” Knight added, “With this ruling, Illinois joins court decisions from New Mexico, Washington and New York clarifying that business owners serving the public may not refuse to serve lesbians and gay men because of their religious beliefs.”

In the original hearing before the state commission, Timbercreek Bed & Breakfast owner Jim Walder said, “We do not hate gays. We are not homophobic or bigoted. We do not prohibit homosexuals from visiting TimberCreek. Some have. We are respectful and kind to all of our guests. We draw the line, however, at hosting gay marriages.”

After denying access to the Wathens, Walder followed up the refusal with a derogatory email harassing the couple about their “gay lifestyle” saying, “it’s not too late to change your behavior.”

JoeMyGod originally reported on the email:

We will never host same-sex civil unions. We will never host same-sex weddings even if they become legal in Illinois,” Timber Creek operators told [Todd] Wathen in an e-mail. “We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the Bible says about it. If that is discrimination, I guess we unfortunately discriminate.” When informed of Illinois’s new civil unions law, Jim Walder of Timber Creek replied, “The Bible does not state opinions, but facts. It contains the highest laws pertinent to man. It trumps Illinois law, United States law, and global law should there ever be any.” Walder later sent an unsolicited e-mail of Bible passages to Wathen. He wrote, “Hi Todd, I know you may not want to hear this, but I thought I would send along a couple of verses in Romans 1 detailing how the Creator of the Universe looks at the gay lifestyle. It’s not to late to change your behavior.”

The Illinois Human Rights Commission’s original order – in addition to requiring Timbercreek Bed & Breakfast to pay $80,000 – forbids the business from refusing service to same-sex couples.

You can read the original decision here, and the appeals court refusal here.

Previously:

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he's worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.

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