Bill and Nanette Graham have been forced into a corner by the Des Plaines Methodist campground where they have a home.
After weeks of harassment and threats, the latest message sent via police and police dogs, the couple has filed a complaint with the Cook County Human Rights Commission. Their complaint alleges bias in housing.
The Grahams got in hot water with the United Methodist Chicago District Camp Ground Association after their family showed support for a gay couple who lived on the land as renters last year. The gay couple, Evanston's Bob Carroll and Russell Elenz, were denied the right to either rent or purchase property this year. They have each filed complaints with the County's HRC, alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing.
The Grahams' complaint is significant because this could be the first time the county's human-rights law is applied on the basis of "association" with gay and lesbian people.
The Grahams, after saying Carroll and Elenz could stay in their home on the land, started receiving warnings from campground administrators. After officials had threatened the Grahams, and Methodist court proceedings were held, the trustees said the Grahams could stay as long as they "behaved," Bill Graham said.
Bill said nothing has occurred since that time, but nonetheless the family was locked out during the campground's annual elections Aug. 7-a trustee pointed the Grahams out to a security guard, who then refused them entrance to their own property. Des Plaines police and police dogs were also on the scene, keeping the Grahams and non-residents out of the campground. The Graham family has not returned to the campground since.
Carroll and Elenz rented a property on the land last summer, but were harassed when it was found out they were a gay couple. Carroll is also a licensed foster parent in Illinois and their son, now four, was with them last summer during the harassment. This year, when they attempted to purchase a home in the campground, they were also refused by the facility's trustees.
While the campground officials say they do not discriminate, the Carroll/Elenz and Graham claims filed in Cook County, which covers Des Plaines, should clarify just who controls the facility. The lawsuit also names the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church, because the legal ownership status is unclear.
Nanette Graham said she is thankful they have found attorneys who are donating their time for this case. The attorneys are from John Marshall Law School.