When it comes to weddings at the TimberCreek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton, Illinois, Jim Walder has kept it sweet and simple since he opened the doors in 2003.
The quaint property boasts an old red barn and plenty of rustic charm:
A horse and carriage graces the property for weddings:
It gets mostly “excellent” ratings on Trip Advisor.
But this paradise 110 miles south of Chicago hasn't always been bucolic and peaceful.
Walder's B&B has been through disastrous windstorms and floods. And though those acts of God could have wiped him out of business, it turns out that it's Walder's adherence to his religious beliefs that just may be its demise.
In 2011, a gay couple sought to have their civil ceremony at Timber Creek. Though the inn opens its doors to gay couples, hosting a same-sex wedding was a different matter, in Walder's opinion.
As the News-Gazette reports, the self-described “devout Christian” felt he had to draw the line:
“We do not hate gays. We are not homophobic or bigoted. We do not prohibit homosexuals from visiting TimberCreek. Some have. We are respectful and kind to all of our guests. We draw the line, however, at hosting gay marriages.”
Now, the Illinois Human Rights Commission has assessed Walder $80,000 in fines and penalties for saying no to the two men who have since married elsewhere.
Walder is appealing the fines and believes that “the fix was in” when three members of the commission found him guilty of discrimination.
And many agree that he might have a legitimate complaint.
The News-Gazette reports that the state is supposed to have a diversity of political backgrounds on the commission, but it turns out that two of the three people adjudicating the TimberCreek case were Democrats and one was a political independent. They might have carried some other baggage, too:
- None was a Republican.
- One is a member of the “Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.”
- Another is a member of the governor's LGBT Working Group.
Walder claims he's being discriminated against for his religious beliefs. And his attorney Jason Craddock says his client will keep fighting:
“The unfortunate order from the panel doesn't surprise me, given the zeitgeist in this state now. We will keep fighting, of course—first appealing to the entire commission, and then onto the (Illinois) Appellate Court, and beyond if necessary.”
He's appealed his case to the full Human Rights Commission and wants commissioners with a conflict of interest to step back and recuse themselves.
The spokesman for the commission says Walder's request that those with a conflict of interest recuse themselves “would be antithetical to the very tenets of the Illinois Human Rights Act.”
Walder has set up a defense fundraising page at Continue to Give.