PAXTON — A judge is expected to decide next month whether to order a bed-and-breakfast west of Paxton to comply with penalties imposed for discriminating against a same-sex couple in 2011.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office filed a motion in Ford County Circuit Court on Sept. 12, asking Associate Judge Robert Travers to issue judgment in its favor in a lawsuit it filed last October against the TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast.
Travers is expected to rule on the motion during a hearing set for 11 a.m. Oct. 23.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Illinois Department of Human Rights, asks the court to demand the B&B comply with a 2016 order of the Illinois Human Rights Commission, which fined the B&B more than $80,000, including $30,000 in damages payable to the couple, Todd and Mark Wathen of Tuscola, along with $50,000 in attorneys’ fees.
The commission determined the B&B discriminated against the Wathens based on their sexual orientation when the business’ co-owner, Jim Walder, refused to allow their civil union ceremony at his facility. In denying their request, Walder wrote an e-mail to the Wathens citing various biblical verses and denouncing homosexuality as “wrong and unnatural.”
In July, Travers denied the defense’s motion to have the lawsuit dismissed or instead have its proceedings postponed.
Following that decision, the B&B’s attorney, Jason Craddock of Monee, filed paperwork in court that again requested the case be dismissed or instead stayed due to what he termed a “pending appeal” with the Illinois Supreme Court. As he did in July, Craddock again requested the proceedings be stayed until the supreme court makes a ruling.
Craddock added that he feels the Illinois Supreme Court will side in the B&B’s favor, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued favorable rulings in similar cases.
Assistant Attorney General Mary Grieb said in response, however, that Craddock continues to inaccurately claim to have petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court. Grieb said there is no evidence she can find to prove otherwise.
“Here, if defendant is relying on a ‘pending’ petition for leave to appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court as an affirmative defense in this case, defendant must provide specific factual detail about the allegedly pending petition,” Grieb said in her Sept. 12 motion, which will be the focus of the Oct. 23 hearing. “But, defendant has not pled any specific facts about the alleged petition, including a case number, date and time of filing the petition, date and time of acceptance of the petition, or even a file-stamped copy of the pending petition.”
Grieb added that Craddock has presented “inaccurate summaries of recent, but immaterial, United States Supreme Court cases.”
Travers entered an “agreed order” on Sept. 18 setting an Oct. 11 deadline for Craddock to respond to Grieb’s motion, an Oct. 18 deadline for Grieb to file a reply to any response filed by Craddock, and the Oct. 23 hearing.
Travers is primarily assigned to hear cases in Livingston County Circuit Court, but he was assigned by the 11th Judicial Circuit’s chief judge to hear the lawsuit against the B&B after Ford County Circuit Judge Matt Fitton recused himself due to an unspecified conflict.