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Illinois couple files complaint against inns for refusing to host same-sex ceremony

Friday, November 4, 2011
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An Illinois gay couple has filed complaints with the state’s Human Rights Commission against two bed-and-breakfast inns that have allegedly refused to host their civil union ceremony, telling the couple they only host “traditional weddings” and that the Bible says that “homosexuality is wrong.”

Todd and Mark Wathen of Mattoon, Ill., allege that both the Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton, Ill., and the Beall Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Alton, Ill., discriminated against them by refusing to host their legally recognized ceremony, reported the Windy City Times.

Mark (left) and Todd Wathen

Illinois legalized civil unions for same-sex couples earlier this year.

According to the complaints, filed individually on behalf of both Mark and Todd, the Wathens inquired with the inns in February, in anticipation of having a ceremony when civil unions went into effect in June. Both of the inns turned them away, they said.

“We were thrilled that Illinois provided legal recognition to our relationship,” said Todd Wathen in the statement. “It hurt to face this blatant discrimination just as the state was making such progress in treating lesbian and gay couples fairly.”

The complaint alleges that Jim Belote, Beall Mansion owner, told Todd Wathen in an email that his inn was only performing “traditional weddings.”

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Following their lack of success booking at the Beall Mansion, the Wathens contacted Jim Walden at Timber Creek. In an email response to their inquiry, Walden told Todd Wathen that his inn would “never” host same-sex civil unions or weddings because “we believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the bible says about it.”

According to the complaints, Walden followed his response unsolicited three days later, citing verses on how “The Creator of the Earth looks at the gay lifestyle.”

“It is not too late to change your behavior,” the email stated. “He is loving and kind and ready to forgive all men their trespasses, including me.”

The couple, who has been together nearly ten years, has filed complaints with the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the Dept. of Human Rights alleging violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by businesses open to the public.

The attorney general’s office is “reviewing the case to determine if these individuals may have been discriminated against over their sexual orientation,” said Robyn Ziegler, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office. “If so, that would be a violation of the state’s civil rights law.”

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