The ACLU of Illinois represent a Central Illinois couple – Todd and Mark Wathen – who were refused access to a bed and breakfast facility for their civil union ceremony. 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.
The Commission found the Wathens had been the victims of discrimination and order the B&B owner to pay damages. The owner appealed the decision to a court, where the appeal was dismissed in June 2017.
The owner has continued to refuse to pay the damages, leading to a court ordering in 2021 that the property be turned over to the Wathens for sale, in order to satisfy the debt. The owner tried to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court of the United States, both of which refused to hear the case.