McHenry County Board again proposes Pride Month proclamation, but language prompts criticism

McHenry County raised the gay pride flag June 16 at its administrative building in Woodstock after the McHenry County Board proclaimed June as LGBTQIA Pride Month, it announced on Facebook that day.

June could once again be declared LGBTQ Pride Month in McHenry County. The McHenry County Board has a Pride Month proclamation on its agenda for its Tuesday meeting, although its language has sparked some criticism.

In recent years, the Pride Month declaration has been controversial at the County Board. Last year, the County Board passed a policy that would require two-thirds approval to fly a Pride flag at the county building.

The Pride Month proclamation was read in May last year, ahead of Pride celebrations in June. Board member Terri Greeno, R-Crystal Lake, had left her seat when the proclamation was read. She later said she felt the proclamation was not “the business of the board,” a sentiment she repeated at a County Board meeting Thursday.

County Board member Lou Ness, D-Woodstock, who wrote last year’s proclamation, said she wouldn’t submit one this year.

County Board member Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake, /who is running against Republican incumbent Mike Buehler for County Board chair in November, said Thursday she wrote the proclamation, and she said she took Ness’ proclamation and condensed it. Wegener told the Northwest Herald it has the “same intent and meaning” as last year’s.

This year’s Pride Month proclamation in its current state touches on discrimination in housing and healthcare that LGBTQ community members face.

Greeno said she thought that with such language, “we are indicting the residents and the constituents of McHenry County.” She added she has been working in the employment industry for more than 20 years and hasn’t witnessed any employers discriminating against people.

Board member Theresa Meshes, D-Fox River Grove, said she supported the proclamation.

“Just [because] we don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” Meshes said, referring to discrimination. “I hear stories weekly of people in our county, mostly teenagers, who are afraid to be their true selves.”

One of the county’s strategic plan goals is to “encourage diversity and welcomeness.” In a January strategic plan update, county officials mentioned proclamations like Pride Month and Women’s History Month. This year’s women’s history month proclamation contained a diversity, equity and inclusion reference that was ultimately removed from the final version.

Although the county is trying to encourage welcomeness, Meshes said, “there are certainly people in this county who don’t feel welcome, who feel they need to hide themselves, who are still concerned about their safety here.”

The proclamation came days after Woodstock hosted its annual Pride parade and festival, while an inaugural Pride event also took place in Crystal Lake this month.

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