Proposed McHenry County flag policy including limits on pride flag set for final vote
A final vote before the McHenry County Board is set for Tuesday on a proposal to limit which flags can fly over the county's government buildings, an idea several board members see as targeting the gay pride flag.
The policy proposed by county board member Jeffrey Thorsen, a Republican from Crystal Lake, would create an official flag policy for the county, limiting the flags that can fly over government buildings to the U.S., state of Illinois, POW/MIA, McHenry County government and Purple Heart flags.
The county does not have a flag policy, which Thorsen said is necessary for when groups come to the board with a flag request for a special occasion. Many board members did not buy Thorsen's reasoning at Thursday's committee of the whole meeting, however.
"I am the only LGBTQ member of this board," said board member Jessica Phillips, a Democrat from Crystal Lake. "You're excluding us and telling us we are not equal and not a part of this community."
Thorsen and policy supporters said the resolution does not target any specific flag or community.
"We choose winners and losers with no policy," said board member Jim Kearns, a Republican from Huntley, who supports the proposal and noted his brother was gay. "That to me is dangerous to our future. You're always choosing and dividing. If you have a policy written, then you make that choice."
The board unanimously approved a resolution in 2019 to fly the pride flag in June during pride month. Some board members see the timing of the resolution, which was introduced before committees in July, as evidence the policy aims to target the pride flag.
"There's no way around this. It is directly because that pride flag was being flown," Phillips said.
Thorsen said handling the issue now, at a time when the county is not flying any special flags, makes the timing of the resolution "neutral." He said the goal was to bring the issue of which flags the county flies up for discussion.
"Personally, I just wanted to get the discussion elevated to the board level, and we're here, so I feel I succeeded," he said.
The current resolution would not prohibit the board from passing future resolutions authorizing other flags to be flown, including the pride flag. This led several members to question the point of creating a flag policy when the current way of handling flag requests is already to submit and debate a resolution.
Board Member Tanya Jindrich, a Democrat from Crystal Lake, asked Chairman Mike Buehler whether the county board can "just add the pride flag to it if we all agreed just a couple of months ago on it," to which Buehler responded motions to amend the resolution can be filed at any time.
The possibility of changes to the resolution leaves what board members will vote on Tuesday in question.
Ten of the board's 24 members expressed opposition to the resolution during Thursday's committee meeting, with several calling for amendments, including changes that would add the pride flag as an approved flag or clarification that allows board members to propose additional flags in the future.
However, board member Kelli Wegener, a Democrat from Crystal Lake, noted she tried making an amendment during a committee meeting last week that would allow the board to add flags through resolutions, an idea many on the full board said was worth discussion. Her motion was shot down.
"We should just pull this from Tuesday because to create a policy for the sake of saying we created a policy doesn't make any sense to me," Wegener said.
Board members said they have heard various opinions from residents on the pride flag. Thorsen said many believed displaying the flag was political and had concerns about the precedent it set for other flags.
Phillips said she was aware of people who did not like seeing the pride flag displayed, but has since heard from other residents voicing concerns the county would be viewed as an unwelcoming place should Thorsen's resolution pass.
The proposed policy will go before the full county board Tuesday for a final vote. Board members can make a motion to amend the resolution before it is voted on, however.