We represent a Central Illinois couple – Todd and Mark Wathen – who were refused access to a bed and breakfast facility when they were searching for a site to host their civil union ceremony that was a convenient drive for their out-of-town family members. Timber Creek advertised their availability for weddings, including civil weddings, but denied the Wathens use of the bed and breakfast because the owners did not want to host an event for a same-sex couple. Although denial of access to this public space because the Wathens are gay is not permissible under Illinois law, the bed and breakfast owners have claimed that their religious beliefs give them the right to discriminate.
The Wathens filed charges of discrimination in March 2011, and the Illinois Department of Human Rights found substantial evidence of discrimination based on their investigation of those charges. The ACLU, with our co-counsel Betty Tsamis, filed complaints in the Illinois Human Rights Commission in November of 2011 alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under the Illinois Human Rights Act.
After completing discovery, both the Wathens and Timber Creek filed motions for summary decision in June 2013. The case is now fully briefed and we are awaiting a decision from the court.
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... Continue reading