Todd and Mark Wathen, the gay couple who filed a complaint with the state's Human Rights Commission against the owners of an Illinois breakfast and breakfast, have prevailed again in a battle pitting religious freedom and the right of conscience against the gay rights agenda.
Owners of the family-run Timber Creek Bed & Breakfast in Paxton, Illinois are Christians whose faith defines marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman. As a result, they politely declined Todd and Mark Wathen's "request" to have their 2011 gay wedding ceremony held at their bed and breakfast. Mark and Todd subsequently filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, which is composed of unelected individuals appointed by the Governor. The Commission found the bed and breakfast guilty and ordered them to pay $80,000 in damages and legal fees and to violate their religious beliefs and conscience and allow gay couples to use their business for gay marriage ceremonies and/or receptions.
Last year an administrative judge ruled in favor of the Human Right Commission, and earlier this month a three-member panel of the Commission sided with the judge.
On Tuesday, attorneys with the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which represents the Todd and Mark Wathens, claimed the decision is a clear interpretation of Illinois law, whether applied to civil unions or marriage.
“The commission’s decision once again sends a clear message that denying couples the use of a public wedding venue in Illinois because they are gay or lesbian is simply not permitted,” said ACLU director John Knight.
Jason Craddock, an attorney for the Timber Creek owners, said he plans to fight the decision and was not surprised by the panel's move. If necessary he intends to take the case beyond the agency to an Illinois appellate court.
“We’re going through all the steps,” Craddock said, adding that the owners have been “punished for living out their faith.”