Judge rules B&B to pay $80,000 in discrimination suit

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Update: 10:06 pm, 3/30/16, Wednesday

PAXTON — Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast owner, Jim Walder, responded to a request for comment regarding the civil lawsuit ruling against him.

His response in part states: “To be absolutely clear, we cannot host a same sex wedding, even though fines and penalties have been imposed by the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Our policy will not be changing.”

Walder says he’s currently vacationing in Florida.  

Original: 10:05 pm, 3/29/16, Tuesday

PAXTON — A five-year long discrimination suit is finally coming to an end. A bed and breakfast refused to host a civil union for a Tuscola couple in 2011, and the couple took them to court.

Todd and Mark Wathen took Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast to court for violating the Human Rights Act. They won the case, but wish it had never come to this.

Five years ago, Illinois made civil unions legal; exciting news for the Wathen’s, who had wanted to have a ceremony.

“You know it was something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, same sex marriages or civil unions, it was a very exciting time,” said Todd.

The Wathen’s were to have their ceremony and the Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton seemed like the perfect location, but their dreams were quickly crushed.

“Todd emailed the owner of the business, and we weren’t expecting those responses,” said Mark.

First, it was a flat-out no. Then came the unsolicited advice. The B&B owners didn’t serve same-sex couples, claiming it was against their religion. The Wathen’s held their ceremony somewhere else, then took the B&B to court.

“It was like dredging it up all over again, you know, reliving it,” said Todd.

The Wathen’s say court has been a long, arduous process. Although they haven’t had much direct contact with the business owners, a statement on the B&B’s website has been up for years. It reads homosexuality is sinful and a behavioral choice.

“You know the stuff on the website is there, we’ve seen it, it’s very hurtful because it happened to us,” said Todd.

The Wathen’s say they’re glad the B&B owners are being held responsible, but the humiliation from this ordeal hasn’t gone away. Todd says he hasn’t yet considered forgiveness.

“Not at this time, no.”

Owners of the B&B could not be reached for comment. In total, the judge awarded $15,000 to each man. The B&B owners will also have to pay more than $50,000 in attorney fees.

In addition, the judge ruled the B&B has to offer the couple access to their business to celebrate their civil union. The judge made these decisions because the B&B’s lawyer did not respond to the suit fast enough. 

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