Volume 100 -- Issue 5 Georgetown Law Journal

Gay Rights, the Bible, and Public Accommodations: An Empirical Approach to Religious Exemptions for Holdout States

Todd Wathen and his partner of eight years immediately began planning a civil-union ceremony after learning that their love could soon be legally recognized in their home state of Illinois. Wanting a “memorable place” to hold their ceremony, Wathen contacted two bed-and-breakfast inns in Illinois that advertised their ability to hold weddings and other related events. In response to Wathen’s inquiry, the first inn stated: “[a]t this point we will just be doing traditional weddings.” Later, the inn clarified that traditional weddings meant “[w]eddings as opposed to civil unions.” The second inn’s co-owner responded that it too only “do[es] weddings,” then wrote to Wathen: “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 co-owner later sent Wathen unsolicited Bible passages “detailing how the Creator of the Universe looks at the gay lifestyle.” He told Wathen it was not too late to change his “behavior.”

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