McHenry County Board scales back Pride Month resolution: ‘This is not a moment of pride for anybody’

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.

The McHenry County Board recognized June as Pride Month, albeit with a scaled-back version of a Pride Month proclamation.

The new version came Tuesday evening after a lengthier version was considered at a County Board committee meeting last week. The scaled-back version was not available online Wednesday, but it includes language such as “Pride Month offers a unique and significant opportunity to affirm and uphold the rights of all to freedom of choice in sexual orientation” and “Pride Month further upholds the ideal that LGBTQ+ residents of McHenry County, as all residents, have the right to live their lives with freedom from fear of harassment; exclusion; educational, housing or employment bias.”

The original proclamation included language referencing LGBTQ people serving in government and the military, as well as those who are “forced to hide their identities and live in secrecy and fear due to the criminalization of their relationships,” among other things.

Board member Terri Greeno, R-Crystal Lake, had taken issue last week with some of the language in the proclamation referencing employment, health care and housing discrimination in the county.

“The previous proclamation was an indictment, a prosecution and a conviction of the citizens and residents of McHenry County. That’s not the purpose of a proclamation,” Greeno said.

Greeno, who last year walked out of the board chambers when the Pride Month proclamation was read, said after the meeting that she has “nothing against” the LGBTQ community, and her issue was with the discrimination reference.

Greeno said that if the original proclamation had been the one the board went with, she would have voted no and would have called for a division of the house rather than walking out. Greeno said such a move would get the vote on the record.

Instead, the revised proclamation went forward by voice vote, with a handful of members voting no. Board member Brian Sager, R-Woodstock, wrote the updated version of the proclamation that focused on freedom from “overt prejudice.” Greeno said she contributed a part of the proclamation referencing “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Sager, who Zoomed into Tuesday’s meeting, said he wasn’t trying to create a sense “of lack of unity” with the new proclamation. He said many people have a lot of strong opinions on different “social questions.”

“We have a responsibility to uphold every single individual’s right to personal freedoms,” Sager said, adding that people also have a right to have freedom from “overt prejudice” and “discrimination.”

Board member Lou Ness, D-Woodstock, who is a member of the LGBTQ community and wrote last year’s Pride proclamation, took issue with the “overt prejudice” language.

“Unless you live in my skin, you can’t tell me what my experiences are,” Ness said.

Ness said people thanked her privately for the Pride Month proclamation last year. She called out Greeno by name, who called a point of order in response.

Ness said she declined to write a Pride Month proclamation this year. Board member Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake, who is running to unseat County Board Chair Mike Buehler, wrote the original proclamation.

“This past week, I’ve seen comments, read emails and heard people filled with judgment, hostility and discrimination aimed at those who support Pride and/or members who are part of the LGBTQIA community,” Wegener said. “I want to stress that Pride and [the] celebration of inclusiveness is not political.”

Other Democrats on the board took issue with the new proclamation.

“Honoring Pride Month is also about recognizing that who someone loves does not determine the quality of their character or their worth as an individual,” said board member Carolyn Campbell, D-Crystal Lake, adding that she was “frustrated” to get the new proclamation at the last minute.

Said board member Theresa Meshes, D-Fox River Grove: “This is terribly sad. This is not a moment of pride for anybody.”

After the meeting, Buehler said he had caught wind of the revised proclamation Tuesday afternoon. He said a board member had issues with the original proclamation and that the board member worked with others to come up with something. Buehler said such changes are “part of the process,” and “this is not unlike any other issue.”

Public comment coming after the vote tended to be against the revised proclamation.

“I’m very saddened that the amendment went through. I think it’s a disgrace,” former UpRising Bakery owner Corinna Sac said. “In November, please remember to vote with Pride.”

UpRising was located in Lake in the Hills before closing last year after months of being the subject of controversy and the target of vandals over its drag brunch events.

Belinda Baxter, another commenter, said she is a voter in the county and said the watered-down version was a “slap in the face” to LGBTQ people. She added that she’d try to find candidates for the County Board who support “all members of this community.”

One of the public commenters, John Collins, is a Democrat running against board member John Reinert, R-Crystal Lake, in District 2 in the November election.

Collins said he was “saddened” by what he called cowardice shown “by the majority of this County Board tonight in regard to the Pride proclamation.”

“You waited until tonight to ambush the original proclamation because of your fear of what your possible constituents might say,” he said.

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