PAXTON - Paxton small business owner Jim Walder awaits a decision from Illinois Human Rights Commission pertaining as to the fate of his bed and breakfast. A lesbian couple from Mattoon filed a complaint against TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast in 2011 after Walder told them he doesn't host civil union ceremonies based on his religious beliefs.
Now Walder says he expects more legal challenges because he will hold the same policy on same sex weddings.
"The idea that free people can be 'compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives' as the 'price of citizenship' is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom," said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel at the Thomas More Society.
But while Illinois new same sex marriage law allows churches to refuse to marry same sex couples, business owners are not exempt from the law if they hold religious values that do not recognize same sex marriages.
Refusing to host a gay marriage or a civil union is a violation of Illinois' non-discrimination law, the ACLU argues. Businesses may not reject customers that do not fit within their religious beliefs.
Just this week, an Oregon couple that refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding was ruled against by a similar state commission, and now the two face hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, forcing them to close their small bakery storefront and work from home.
“The investigation concludes that the bakery is not a religious institution under the law and that the business’ policy of refusing to make same-sex wedding cakes represents unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation,” said Charlie Burr, a spokesman for the Bureau of Labor and Industries.
The News-Gazette says because Paxton's Walder is opposed holding civil union ceremonies at his bed-and-breakfast for religious reasons, his attorney Jason Craddock said it would be a violation of Walder's First Amendment rights if the Human Rights Commission were to side in the Wathens' favor.
If that happens, Craddock said the decision would be appealed, and if the decision is still upheld, litigation would be the next step.
Craddock said there is concern that the impending decision may set a precedent for future similar cases. "So it's extremely important that we keep fighting for the rights of people like Jim Walder and others who want to exercise their liberty to do business," Craddock said.
Could a small business ever reject servicing an event with these standards? Only if the reason for the rejection has nothing to do with sexual orientation, gender, age, disabilities or ethnic background, according to Illinois law.
More to come on the story ...