McHenry County changes, approves Pride Month proclamation

Vote came after original proclamation was switched for one written by a County Board member

McHenry County Board member Lou Ness debates a resolution opposing the Illinois gun ban and supporting its repeal during the McHenry County Board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in the McHenry County Administration Building.

McHenry County will recognize all of June as Pride Month, after the County Board approved a proclamation at its meeting Tuesday.

The proclamation approved was not originally in the county board material ahead of the meeting. The one approved was written by County Board member Lou Ness, D-Woodstock, who is the second openly gay person to serve on the board.

During the meeting, and after remarks from Ness, members voted to have Ness’s proclamation replace the original one.

In her remarks, Ness became emotional talking about the challenges those in the LGBTQ+ community face. After having originally pitched her proclamation ahead of the meeting, but not having it chosen initially, she felt it was a “scathing rebuke” from the board.

“Someone asked me if this is a hill I’m ready to die on. I’ll tell you this. This is a hill I die on every day,” Ness said at the meeting.

Ness’s proclamation outlined many specifics about the LGBTQ+ community, including the various government positions and challenges they deal with, such as their relationships being outlawed for many years, and the need for Pride Month to “explore the impact of discrimination and inequality” that the community faces.

The original acknowledged much of that, saying the community’s “long and ongoing struggle … continues to provide inspiration to all.” It openly supported the LGBTQ+ community based on everybody having “infinite dignity and worth.” However, it did not provide the same level of detail as Ness’s.

Outside of acknowledging Ness’s comments, no other board members spoke ahead of the vote.

“Someone asked me if this is a hill I’m ready to die on. I’ll tell you this. This is a hill I die on every day.”

—  County Board member Lou Ness, D-Woodstock, on living as a gay woman

The vote was a vocal one and not officially tallied. However, no members voiced opposition for replacing the proclamation or voted against approving it.

County Board member Terri Greeno, R-Crystal Lake, left her seat when the proclamation was being read out loud. She said Wednesday she didn’t know if the proper processes were followed, and didn’t feel like she, nor any other board member, had enough time to take in what the new proclamation said.

Instead, she said getting up was the “least confrontational” path. She also said she didn’t think the proclamation was something the board should be taking up, as it doesn’t have any direct ties to any other action the County Board takes.

“I don’t think it’s the business of the board,” Greeno said. “It doesn’t represent why we were put in office.”

The vote Tuesday marks another year the McHenry County Board approved a proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month. Last year’s vote was paired with controversy about whether or not to fly the rainbow Pride Flag on county flagpoles. This year’s proclamation did not include any mention of flying the Pride Flag.

In order to fly the Pride Flag, it would take a two-thirds vote of the County Board to support it due to a new flag policy passed earlier this year.

Previous votes also have come during the month of June rather than leading up to it in May, which some board members in the past have said shorts the community of their recognition.