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Ill. innkeeper expects more legal troubles when he refuses to host gay weddings

Ill. innkeeper expects more legal troubles when he refuses to host gay weddings

PAXTON, Ill. — The owner of an Illinois inn who is the subject of a civil rights complaint for refusing to host same-sex civil union ceremonies, says he will refuse to allow same-sex weddings when the state’s marriage equality law takes effect in June.

Jim Walder
Jim Walder

“As long as I own Timber Creek, there will never be a gay marriage at this wedding venue,” says Jim Walder, owner of the Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast.

Walder is the subject of a civil rights complaint filed in 2011 with the Illinois Human Rights Commission by Todd and Mark Wathen, a same-sex couple who alleged Walder discriminated against them when he refused to host their civil union ceremony at his inn, which advertises itself as a site for weddings and other special events.

According to the complainants, Walden responded to their email inquiry that he 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.”

The outcome of the 2011 complaint is still pending, and a decision in the case is expected at any time, according to Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Illinois.

In the meantime, Walder is expecting further legal battles once the new state law legalizing same-sex marriages goes into effect June 1, and he again refuses to allow such ceremonies.

He hopes state lawmakers can amend the law to allow businesses like his to choose whether they want to allow gay weddings on their properties, based on their personal beliefs.

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“Entities that conduct business with the public are bound by Illinois law not to discriminate against customers for a range of reasons, including sexual orientation,” said Yohnka. “The notion that we would carve out an exception to these laws for businesses that want to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples is something that we oppose strenuously.”

“If such a carve-out is allowed, what next? Could a business say that they have a religious objection to folks of other religious beliefs, or against women?” said Yohnka.

“We do not let people pick and choose which nondiscrimination laws they follow. We enforce the law for the benefit of everyone. Changing that policy invites chaos,” he said.

A request for a statement from the Illinois Human Rights Commission regrading the unresolved 2011 complaint went unanswered.

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