November 29, 2016 3:54 pm

ACLU Statement on denial of appeal in downstate Bed & Breakfast case

The Illinois Human Rights Commission has declined review and adopted the report and recommendation of an administrative law judge, ruling against a Paxton Bed & Breakfast after its owners denied a downstate couple – Mark and Todd Wathen – access to the facility to celebrate their civil union in 2011. Today’s action comes after an administrative law judge found that the denial of the use of the facility was because the Wathens are gay – a violation of Illinois law. The judge also previously ordered the Bed & Breakfast to pay $30,000 to the Wathens for their emotional distress, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. Most importantly, the owners of the Bed & Breakfast were ordered to cease discriminating against same-sex couples by denying them use of the facilities for marriage and civil union ceremonies.

The Illinois Human Rights Commission refused the Bed & Breakfast’s request to review the administrative law judge’s recommended orders, which makes them the final orders of the Commission.

The following can be attributed to John Knight of the ACLU of Illinois, who along with Betty Tsamis of the Tsamis Law Office and Clay Tillack and Robert A. H. Middleton of Schiff Hardin served as counsel to the Wathens:

The Commission’s decision once again sends a clear message that denying couples the use of a public wedding venue in Illinois because they are gay or lesbian is simply not permitted. Business owners cannot pick-and-choose to follow laws simply because they personally disagree with same-sex couples’ decision to marry.

Fortunately, we have not seen many examples of this type of blatant discrimination since the same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Illinois.