In a critical decision this week, the Illinois Human Rights Commission ruled in favor of our clients, Todd and Mark Wathen, who were denied the opportunity to host their civil union ceremony at a downstate Bed & Breakfast. Not only did the owners of the B&B deny Todd and Mark the services they offer to different-sex couples, they sent an email lecturing the Wathens about the owners’ religious beliefs regarding the “gay lifestyle.” When the Wathens complained to the Human Rights Commission, the owner claimed he was exercising his religious liberty in denying them service.
Happily, the Commission disagreed and ruled that the denial of public accommodations is not permissible in this circumstance.
The decision will have broad implications for how Illinois will protect LGBT persons seeking services from businesses that serve the public. It is now clear that such businesses cannot pick and choose who to serve based on the owners’ religious views.
Illinois now joins a growing list of states making clear that business owners cannot use religion to discriminate.
Congratulations to Todd and Mark for standing up to this discrimination and helping to make this landmark decision possible.
- Read about the case Wathen v. Timber Creek Bed & Breakfast
- Read the press release about the decision from the Illinois Human Rights Commission
- Download the decision (PDF)