Same-sex couple says bed and breakfast won't host civil union ceremony

10:54 PM, Feb 23, 2011   |    comments
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By Ann Rubin

Alton, IL (KSDK) - A same sex couple from Mattoon, Illinois, is taking legal action against the proprietors of two bed and breakfasts. They say the venues, which host weddings, have refused to let them have a civil union ceremony.

Illinois will allow civil unions as of June 1 and Todd Wathen thought he wanted to have his ceremony in Alton. Now he says he's not so sure after the response he got.

For his big day, he wanted a small ceremony, something quaint and charming. Wathen thought Alton, a romantic river town, would be perfect. And when he saw the Beall Mansion Bed and Breakfast, he was sold.

"I was ready to reserve a date right then," he said.

But he couldn't. Wathen's celebration would be a civil union to his longtime partner. And though Illinois just approved legislation allowing them, the Beall Mansion does not. The owners made a point of telling him.

"We want to keep our weddings traditional. Well, of course, I knew what that meant," Wathen said he was told.

Wathen tried another spot and got another "no."

This time, the owner of the TimberCreek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton wrote in an email, "We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the Bible says about it. If that is discrimination, I guess we unfortunately discriminate."

"When they talk to you like that you feel about an inch tall," Wathen said.

And so Wathen and his partner got a lawyer and they've now filed complaints with the Attorney General's Office and the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

"The message is the law is the law and you have to follow it whether you personally agree with it or not," said Attorney Betty Tsamis.

The owners of the Beall Mansion in Alton wrote NewsChannel 5 an email:

"We apologize for any misunderstanding.

"Illinois civil union bill is not just for same-sex couples. It's for opposite sex couples as well. At this time we don't do civil unions (same sex or opposite sex). Nor do we do wedding rehearsal dinners (same sex or opposite sex.) Nor do we do many other types or events (same sex or opposite sex.) Additional events and services may or may not be added to our repertoire at some time in the future.

"All couples (same sex and opposite sex) and singles (male and female) have come and enjoyed our elegant overnight accommodations and all are most genuinely welcome."

Still, Wathen says this just isn't good enough.

"We're going to discriminate because of your sexual orientation, what's next? Are we going to go backwards?" Wathen said.

He hopes not. Wathen says all he wanted was a place to celebrate.

"I don't want no one else to have to go through something like this," he said.

Wathen says he got a phone call today from another bed and breakfast in Alton offering to host his civil union ceremony. He says he's considering it. He and his partner were hoping to have the event in late June.













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