Alexandra Katzmann, who is Jewish, and Jonathan Webber, a Christian, wanted to get married at Bernadine’s Stillman Inn in Galena, Illinois. The mixed-faith couple says they were turned down because they wanted to have a non-religious wedding (video below).
The ACLU of Illinois, which filed a discrimination complaint against the Inn with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, said in a press release May 25 that the Inn's owner, Dave Anderson, told the couple on Nov. 1, 2015, that he only allowed Christian wedding services.
The couple asserted that they mailed in their deposit, but the wedding got axed after they met Anderson in person.
"And he just kept saying that he wouldn’t allow it," Katzman told WGN. "That he would only allow services that mentioned God or religion.”
The couple said they suggested bringing in someone else to perform the ceremony or reworking the vows.
"That was the moment that he closed his book and looked at me and said it was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole," Katzman recalled. "And I said, 'I don't understand,' and he said, 'Your wedding is not a good fit.'"
Normally, a bed and breakfast or hotel is legally classified as a public accommodation, and owners may not discriminate based on race, color or religion per federal law.
WGN asked Anderson about his decision not to allow the wedding, and he said, "It's a thing with Galena, the town that we're in. And I think I want to check that. I think you wouldn't mind if I did a little bit of research."
City of Galena officials said in a statement: "As far as the city, we regulate land use. We don’t get involved with religious matters."
"It feels like a weird time travel thing," Webber told the news station. "I can't even fathom that it's still a thing at all."
"Through the intervention of some good friends, we were able to keep our date and had a lovely wedding [at another venue]," Katzman said in the press release. "But we don’t want anyone to go through this humiliation in the future – that is why we filed this complaint."
Anderson wouldn't comment to the news station about his "research," but said that he is working with a lawyer.