Hotel fined 80,000 for refusing to host gay civil union

The owner claimed homosexuality was “immoral and unnatural”.

Illinois’ state Human Rights Commission has ordered a homophobic hotel owner to pay a fine of $80,000 after he refused to allow a same-sex couple to hire his venue for a civil union ceremony.

TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast owner Jim Walder also wrote an email to the couple, to tell them that “homosexuality is immoral and unnatural,” the commission heard.

The state of Illinois legalised civil unions back in 2011 – which is when the couple tried to hire the venue – with marriage equality following in 2013.

However, Illinois has protected its people from discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation since 2006. By refusing service, the hotel was in breach of this law.

The commission ordered TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast – in Paxton – to pay $30,000 to the couple, Todd and Mark Wathen.

The commission also ordered Walder to pay $50,000 in legal fees and $1,218.35 in costs.

“We are very happy that no other couple will have to experience what we experienced by being turned away and belittled and criticised for who we are,” Todd Wathen said in a statement following the ruling.

In December, staff at a hotel in Iowa made an emergency call to the police to report two black transgender guests and “make sure they’re not hookers”.

The pair were en route to attend a funeral when they checked into the Drury Hotel in West Des Moines.

However, shocking audio obtained afterwards revealed that hotel staff panicked when they saw the women, and decided to dial 911 to report their “suspicious” guests.

In audio of the call, the general manager at the hotel is heard asking to run the women’s details because she doesn’t trust them.