Battle between Religious Freedoms and Gay Rights Grows Amidst Illinois Civil Union Law
Soon after Illinois’ Civil Unions bill was signed into law, a same-sex couple decided to enter into a civil union. When trying to find a location for the ceremony, however, they were met with a frustrating reality, according to the Chicago Tribune. The male couple wanted to hold the ceremony at a quaint bed and breakfast in central Illinois, an area convenient for family in Indiana and Kentucky, as well as their home in Mattoon. They contacted two bed and breakfasts, the Beall Mansion in Alton and Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton, both of which told the couple that they would not host same-sex civil unions.
The Beall Mansion replied to the couple’s inquiry via email, saying that it “will just be doing traditional weddings.” The owner of Timber Creek also replied via email, saying “We will never host same-sex civil unions. We will never host same-sex weddings even if they become legal in Illinois. We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the Bible says about it. If that is discrimination, I guess we unfortunately discriminate.”
The couple, who eventually held the ceremony at their home, filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, which found “substantial evidence” that the aforementioned businesses committed a civil rights violation. The couple is intending to file civil lawsuits against both bed and breakfast establishments.
The impending lawsuit puts the spotlight on a very gray area. Does the Human Rights Act supersede the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or vice versa? If one violates the other, should they be amended or completely rewritten? What legal recourse is there for same-sex couples whose rights have been violated when the violator cites religious freedom?
Illinois’ civil unions law is a great achievement in the way of civil rights, but also carries with it unforeseen ramifications. At Nottage and Ward, our experienced Chicago civil union lawyers are dedicated to helping our clients understand the complexities of civil union law. If you are planning on entering into a civil union in Illinois, contact our attorneys for a consultation at 312-332-2915.
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