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Judge denies dismissal of bed and breakfast complaint
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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The Illinois Human Rights Commission has rejected a motion to dismiss a case against a bed and breakfast that turned away a gay couple for their civil union ceremony last year.

Todd and Mark Wathen of Mattoon, Illinois, filed suit against Beall Mansion Bed and Breakfast and another bed and breakfast after the two allegedly refused to host their ceremony because they are gay.

Beall Mansion owners had requested that the case be dismissed, but on Jan. 20 Judge Michael Robinson rejected the dismissal.

The Wathens say that they inquired with Beall Mansion in February 2011, in anticipation of having a ceremony when civil unions went into effect in June. They allege that inn owner Jim Belote told them in an email, that "at this time, we don't do civil unions ( same sex or opposite sex ) ."

According to the Wathens, Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast also turned them down, allegedly writing in an email that the inn would "never" host same-sex civil unions or weddings because "we believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the bible says about it."

The Human Rights Commission issued a notice of "substantial evidence" in the cases last fall.

Beall Mansion had argued that because the Wathens were refused before the civil union act went into effect in June, they did not discriminate by turning them away.

But the judge rejected that claim, stating that the couple was suing on the basis of the Illinois Human Rights Act, which grants equal access to public accommodations for LGBT people and other protected groups, not on the civil unions act.

" [ Beall Mansion ] denied [ Wathen ] use of the space only after it had become aware of [ Wathen's ] sexual orientation, and only after [ Wathen ] had announced an intent to use the space for a purpose that would arguably highlight his sexual orientation," the judge wrote.

The Wathens are suing for monetary compensation and a commitment to end discrimination at the inns. The couple is represented by Betty Tsamis and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

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