In 2011 a gay couple filed a complaint against the owner of an Illinois bed & breakfast after he refused to host their civil union ceremony. The resolution of that complaint is still pending before the state Human Rights Commission, but with same-sex marriage becoming legal in Illinois this June, the venue’s owner has doubled-down on his vow to refuse gay customers.
For almost two years, Jim Walder has not allowed civil-union ceremonies at his bed-and-breakfast near Paxton. And come June, same-sex weddings will be next on the list of activities to be legally recognized in Illinois, yet banned at the TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast. “As long as I own TimberCreek, there will never be a gay marriage at this wedding venue,” Walder said. “I totally support exemptions for everyone doing business in the wedding industry regarding civil unions or gay marriage,” Walder said, warning that “our current legal predicament could be the predicament of other businesses in Paxton, as well,” such as photographers, caterers, cake bakers or wedding planners. State Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, is among the lawmakers pushing for a change. Harms said he voted last year against the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act because, among other reasons, “businesses will be forced to host, cater or otherwise serve gay weddings, even if their religion forbids it.”
The couple in the 2011 complaint is being represented by the ACLU.