We’ve been over this before, but apparently the lesson just doesn’t seem to stick: business owners, before you start turning away same-sex couples, check to make sure sexual orientation isn’t covered by your state’s nondiscrimination policy. Because if it is, denying them equal service is as discriminatory as turning away women, or Jews, or black people. And if you do that, you’ll be slapped with a fine. A big one.
That’s what’s happened to a bed and breakfast in Illinois, a cute place called The TimberCreek. They’ll have to shell out $80,000 for refusing service to a gay couple that wanted to hold a civil union ceremony at the place. (Not even a wedding ceremony! Just a civil union!)
Although similar rulings have occurred in other states, this is the first one in Illinois, so it solidifies that case that businesses don’t get an exemption to laws just because they have a religious belief. If that was the case, a lot of religious racists would still be turning African Americans away from lunch counters. During the early days of integration, it was common for bigots to cite the Bible as justification for racist practices, just as bigots do today for their homophobia.
The ruling in Illinois is extremely comprehensive. The couple gets several tens of thousands of dollars, and the homophobes running The TimberCreek will have to allow them to hold a civil union ceremony. (Though it’s hard to imagine they would want one there now.)
For his part, bigoted TimberCreek owner Jim Walder has a note on the bed and breakfast’s website saying that he is unconcerned with equality, and will never host the ceremony. In the past, he’s harassed the gay couple at the center of the case, telling them that they’re immoral and need to change.
So if Walder wants to refuse the court’s order, great! Like a racist restaurant that won’t serve people of a certain color, or a misogynist country club that won’t allow women in, Illinois is better off forcing this cruel B&B to shutter.
Now if you’re curious about why in some states, some businesses have to serve LGBTs on an equal basis — but they don’t have to do the same for people who espouse homophobic beliefs — here’s a handy explanation for the next time you get into an argument like this: