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HomeIllinois NewsIllinois Businessman Fined $80,000 for Exercising His First Amendment Right

Illinois Businessman Fined $80,000 for Exercising His First Amendment Right

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CHICAGO – A Christian businessman in Paxton, Illinois has been fined $80,000 by the unelected Illinois Human Rights Commission for his refusal to host a same-sex civil union ceremony at his TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast. Jim Walder, the owner, refused the business from Todd and Mark Wathen because of his religious convictions.

In 2011, Todd and Mark Wathen contacted TimberCreek, which publicly markets itself as "an upscale Christian country Bed & Breakfast," to specifically book the gay, civil union ceremony. When the business was declined for religious reasons, the couple appealed to the Human Rights Commission, whose members are appointed by the Governor. Eight of the eleven members were appointed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

A judge with the commission ordered TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast to:

  • Pay $15,000 each to Todd and Mark Wathen as compensation for their emotional distress.
  • Cease and desist from exercising their First Amendment rights and allow full access to their privately owned facilities for gay marriage and civil union services.
  • Provide Todd and Mark Wathen access to their private facility, within one year, for an event celebrating their civil union.
  • Pay the Wathens' pro bono attorneys $50,000 in fees and $1,218 in costs.

"We are very happy that no other couple will have to experience what we experienced by being turned away and belittled and criticized for who we are," said Todd Wathen, who was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

A representative from TimberCreek was not immediately available to comment.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. According to wiki… “Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in Illinois since a law signed by Governor Pat Quinn on November 20, 2013 took effect on June 1, 2014.”
    When this incident took place (2011), same sex marriage was NOT legal in Illinois!

  2. However, sexual and gender protections were added to the Illinois Human Rights Act in 1996, so the refusal to provide public accommodations was illegal in 2011. Everyone has the right to free speech. But Mr. Walder wasn’t simply speaking his opinions. He took active action against the target of his disapproval. THAT’S what got him into trouble.

  3. That’s completely irrelevant. The couple could have been getting married in another state. The simple fact is that the hateful business owners discriminated against the couple by offering them a reduced services menu because they are gay. Justice was served with this fine.

  4. I guess it is simply time that business stop functioning like public entities and start moving to the private club profit model. For those of you who are not in the bible belt you get around asinine laws by starting a private club that allows you to serve your members(the buy a membership for $1 (so there is consideration, but you can credit it back as a coupon with the first purchase)) but not to the general public. As a condition of membership you can have something about not being a fag or whatever. That is how bars operate in dry counties in the bible belt.

  5. ps.. civil unions are used by straight folks too. That’s sinful too. So if this owner did a straight civil union celebration prior to this request, he’s screwed trying to use religious values as his excuse.

  6. As I told you before you elected this buffoon all the election of Rauner did was hang the IL pension and fiscal crisis around the neck of the Republicans. The GOP,nationwide, would have been far better off with Quinn as Governor so a Democrat could preside over the state’s demise.Way to go there Republicans. You could have hung this mess around Madigan’s and Quinn’s neck but nope, you drank the Koolaid.

  7. What happened to freedom of religion? If a businessman does not agree that gay marriage is Biblically right, which it isn’t, then why should he be forced to cater to people who don’t agree with him? Why would a gay couple insist that they cater to their plans if they don’t agree that gay marriage is wrong? I feel they should go where they are comfortable and accepted.

  8. p.s. Pastors can and do sign civil marriage certificates. It’s done for natural marriage (one man and one woman marriage) and does not constitute a sin.
    And the B&B owner always has religious freedoms, he doesn’t need excuses

  9. Exactly, the administrative judge is a judicial tyrant who just blew off constitutionally protected religious freedom. It was a political correctness decision, not a lawful one.

  10. Since we don’t have an official, national religion, my religious beliefs are what ever I say they are. If MY religion says that interracial marriage is a sin, can I refuse service to mixed race couples? If MY religion says that women should be accompanied by a man, can I refuse service to women not accompanied by a man?
    Why stop at religion? Can you refuse service because you just hate gays?

  11. ‘ “Toleration” is no longer tolerable; there must be active, vocal acceptance and participation on demand. Make a quiet donation to the wrong political cause and you will be hounded from your company, even if you founded it. Decline to provide baked goods for a gay wedding and you invite for your business vaporization via culture-apparat drone strike. Consider employing a full-time food taster if you dare to point out that Mr. Jenner is not and can never be a Ms., that men aren’t entitled access to women’s locker rooms just because they put on a bra, that the fifty-eight gender options imagined by Facebook overstate reality by fifty-six.
    As Jonah Goldberg points out: there is always a culture war on because liberals never stop prosecuting it. Yesterday’s victory is simply today’s starting point. Where around you do you see today’s LGBT community putting down its collective gloves and accepting an uppercut to the chin as the price of mainstream acceptance? What we shall have rather is this: a glittering, cherry-red pump stamping on a human face, forever.’ Kyle Smith, New Criterion

  12. Why did this “couple” choose a “Christian” venue for their “celebration”? Answer: almost certainly because they knew that their activity would be offensive to the owner, and they could use the power of the state to crush him if he didn’t submit.

  13. Fine doesn’t apply. No law was broken. The facility is not a public accommodation, but a privately owned and run business. The owner has the right and responsibility to refuse service to undesirable clients. First and forth articles of IL. Constitution. A commission has no jurisdiction to hear the grief or render a finding or fine.

  14. If believing that same sex marriage is wrong defines me as a bigot, I am proud to be a bigot. I was born that way. You do not have to accept my bigotry or let me get married in your bed and breakfast.
    Let’s have a Bigot Pride Parade!