Illinois B&B owner Jim Walder is the latest anti-gay Christian business owner to demand a special right to disobey the law and discriminate against same-sex couples, Champaign's News-Gazette reports:
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.
The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits sexual orientation- and gender identity-based discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The state's new marriage equality law says that "religious facilities" are not required to host same-sex weddings, but makes no such exemption for businesses operating in the public marketplace.
Despite the fact that the law is clear, Walder's ignoble history of illegal discrimination proves that he won't go down without a fight. Details after the jump.
If Walder's name looks familiar, it's because he made headlines in 2011 for rejecting a same-sex couple who sought to hold a reception at TimberCreek celebrating their civil union. But as The Advocate notes, Walder didn't just rebuff Todd Wathen and his partner -- he proselytized them:
"We will never host same-sex civil unions. We will never host same-sex weddings even if they become legal in Illinois," TimberCreek operators told Wathen in an e-mail. "We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the Bible says about it. If that is discrimination, I guess we unfortunately discriminate."
Walder later sent an unsolicited e-mail of Bible passages to Wathen. He wrote, "Hi Todd, I know you may not want to hear this, but I thought I would send along a couple of verses in Romans 1 detailing how the Creator of the Universe looks at the gay lifestyle. It's not to late to change your behavior."
Predictably, Walder's comments caused outrage among supporters of fairness and equality, and equally predictably, he and his family claimed they -- not the people they unlawfully discriminated against -- were the real victims.
The couple Walder turned away in 2011 complained to the Illinois Human Rights Commission, which has not yet issued a ruling in the case. Walder says that he expects additional legal battles once the state's freedom-to-marry law takes effect in June. But if his remarks from 2011 are any indication, he will continue (illegally) refusing service to same-sex couples for as long as possible:
"The Bible does not state opinions, but facts. It contains the highest laws pertinent to man. It trumps Illinois law, United States law, and global law should there ever be any."