The owner of an Illinois bed and breakfast who came under fire after refusing to host a gay civil union ceremony on his property has suffered a legal setback after a panel with the Illinois Human Rights Commission declined to hear his appeal.
Jim Walder, owner of TimberCreek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton, Illinois, was forced to pay $30,000 to same-sex couple Todd and Mark Wathen after the agency determined he had discriminated against them with his refusal to host their event, The Christian Post reported.
But even after that setback last month, Walder has said he has plans to fight on and to appeal to the full commission, telling the outlet that he opposes gay marriage and believes hosting the event would have hampered his religious rights.
He also alleged that two of the three members of the panel who reviewed the case are either “LGBT activists or openly gay” — something called a “a very strange coincidence,” according to The News-Gazette.
Here’s a video advertising weddings at TimberCreek:
Walder said he feels as though there’s a “blatant reverse discrimination” that targets business owners, especially Christian ones. And considering the ties he said the review panelists have, he expressed shock that these people were tasked with looking into his appeal. In the end, he’s refusing to back down and accept the massive fines he’s facing.
“In our opinion, forcing a small business with one employee to host gay marriage which violates the owners sincerely-held Biblical belief that marriage is between one man and one woman is an extreme circumstance, especially when marriage has been understood for thousands of years to be a union between one man and one woman,” Walder told the Post.
The government, though, didn’t agree with this assessment. After the couple filed a complaint with the state’s Department of Human rights, arguing Walder was in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, the agency forced the owner not only to pay out $30,000 for emotional distress caused to the couple, but also an additional $50,000 for attorneys fees.
“We do not hate gays. We are not homophobic or bigoted,” Walder told The News-Gazette. “We do not prohibit homosexuals from visiting TimberCreek. Some have. We are respectful and kind to all of our guests.”
He continued, “We draw the line, however, at hosting gay marriages.”
Walder’s attorney, Jason Craddock, said he isn’t surprised by the panel’s decision, but said he and his client plan to take further action, including waging an appeal to the entire commission and taking the case to an appeals court. The TimberCreek website currently features a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a legal defense fund.
(H/T: Christian Post)
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