ACLU reacts to ruling against B&B that discriminated against gay couple

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PAXTON — The ACLU has issued their reaction to a judge’s ruling against a bed and breakfast that discriminated against a gay male couple.

The Ford County judge ruled for the owners of the bed and breakfast in Paxton to comply with a 2016 order of the Illinois Human Rights Commission, including by paying damages awarded to Mark and Todd Wathen.

The ACLU said in a statement that the business had refused to allow the Wathens to host their civil union ceremony at the bed & breakfast in 2011 because they are gay. The Illinois Human Rights Commission found that this denial of service violated the Illinois Human Rights Act. The Commission ordered the bed & breakfast owner to pay the Wathens $30,000 for their emotional distress, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.  The Commission also ordered the business to “cease and desist from violating the [Human Rights] Act by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation when denying same-sex couples access to its facilities and services for their civil union ceremonies and/or marriages.”  

The business refused and the couple had to go back to the commission. The Illinois Attorney General’s office sought the order in Ford County.

“The Court’s ruling is a victory for Mark and Todd who have waited years to be made whole after being cruelly denied a venue for their civil union service,” said Ghirlandi Guidetti of the ACLU of Illinois. “In addition, the Illinois Attorney General’s filing of this case, and the Judge’s ruling protect the integrity of the Illinois Human Rights Act by making clear that one cannot discriminate and then simply evade any responsibility. That is an important message for all in the State of Illinois to hear.”

The attorney general filed the suit asking for the order in 2018,

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