PAXTON — The Illinois Attorney General’s Office claims a bed-and-breakfast near Paxton is merely trying to “continue to delay the administration of justice” by filing a “meritless,” “legally unsound” and “vague” motion in court seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against the B&B over its refusal to comply with penalties imposed for discriminating against a same-sex couple in 2011.
In a document filed Monday in Ford County Circuit Court, Assistant Attorney General Mary Grieb requested the court deny the TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and instead direct the B&B to comply with an order issued in 2016 by the Illinois Human Rights Commission, which fined the B&B more than $80,000.
The commission determined the B&B discriminated against Todd and Mark Wathen of Tuscola based on their sexual orientation when the business’ co-owner, Jim Walder, refused to allow their civil union ceremony at his facility west of Paxton. In denying their request, Walder wrote an e-mail to the Wathens citing various biblical verses and denouncing homosexuality as “wrong and unnatural.”
The commission ordered the B&B to pay the Wathens $15,000 each in damages, $50,000 in attorneys’ fees and more than $1,200 in additional costs. The B&B was also ordered to cease and desist from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and to allow the Wathens to celebrate their civil union at the B&B within one year.
However, the B&B “has not complied with any aspect of the order,” Grieb said in the recent court filing. “Instead, defendant filed an appeal which it failed to prosecute, tried to submit a petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court which it did not file properly, and failed to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.”
Last October, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office sued the B&B in Ford County Circuit Court on behalf of the Illinois Department of Human Rights, asking the court to order the B&B to comply with the commission’s order.
Two months later, the B&B’s attorney, Jason Craddock of Monee, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit — or instead suspend all court proceedings — noting that he anticipates the Illinois Supreme Court granting the B&B’s appeal of the commission’s order because “constitutional questions have arisen” related to the freedom of speech and freedom to exercise religion.
In her response filed Monday, Grieb, however, said Craddock “inaccurately claims” he has petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court on appeal. Grieb said Craddock has provided no evidence to prove otherwise.
“In short, there is no pending petition or appeal” with the Illinois Supreme Court, Grieb said.
In his motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Craddock also claimed that in the B&B’s case, “constitutional issues” were raised before the human rights commission “but were not addressed.” Craddock also claimed the Fourth District of the Illinois Appellate Court “failed to address” those same issues before “wrongly dismissing” the B&B’s appeal of the commission’s order “due to an alleged late filing of a motion to extend time to file a brief (which was not late).”
Grieb said in response, however, that the appellate court’s dismissal of the appeal was proper because of Craddock’s failure to “timely file” the brief. The dismissal was later upheld by the appellate court, Grieb added.
Craddock also noted in his motion to dismiss the lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in two similar cases “in a manner favorable” to Walder’s B&B, “and such rulings are likely to result in the Illinois Human Rights Commission’s ruling against (the B&B) being reversed, which nullifies the $81,000 judgment (the attorney general’s office) seeks to enforce here.”
Grieb, though, said Craddock is incorrect, noting that all of his attempts to appeal the human rights commission’s order have failed and that he “misconstrues” the U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
Also Monday, a slew of attorneys representing the Wathens — including those from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois — filed a response to Craddock’s motion, stating that they adopt Grieb’s arguments as their own.
Craddock has been given a July 10 deadline to file a response in advance of a July 24 hearing.