McHenry County settles on flag policy, but debate continues

Flying the Pride flag or flags representing veteran groups over McHenry County government facilities will require support of at least two-thirds of county board members, though some on the panel insist that supermajority requirement is too high.

The board approved its new flag policy last week. It creates a process for allowing the county to display nongovernmental flags at county properties. The new policy ends at least part of a debate that has endured for nearly two years.

The final vote was 11-6 and almost entirely along party lines, with all five Democrats and Republican John Reinert of Crystal Lake voting against the policy.

The policy will allow the United States flag, the Illinois state flag and the McHenry County flag - along with the POW/MIA flag - to fly at county buildings, according to the policy.

All other flags will need to go up for an individual vote, and if approved, will count as speech by the county. The flagpoles will not be used for personal speech.

Ahead of Tuesday's vote, some board members, mainly Democrats, said they want flag votes to be a simple majority. Requiring a supermajority, they argued, was done to prevent certain flags from flying.

"I think we're using a supermajority because the board is wanting to prevent the Pride flag from being flown," said board member Gloria Van Hof, a Crystal Lake Democrat. "I believe that a simple majority would be sufficient."

Others, including Reinert, said they there should not be any nongovernmental flags flying.

"I personally struggle with personal interest flags on our government flagpoles of any kind," he said. "If we are going to pass it, I would like to see a supermajority. ... Make sure the majority of us feel that strongly about it."

Board member Theresa Meshes, a Democrat from Fox River Grove, attempted to change the policy to a simple majority, but the amendment failed.

"I did support the flag flying display policy until we changed it to a two-thirds majority," Meshes said. "It's not going to change the amount of discussion we have on proposed flags."

Terri Greeno said a simple majority wouldn't show the full support of the county or county board.

"It's a difference of two votes, it's not insurmountable," the Crystal Lake Republican said. "We need a sense of unanimity. ... To act like this is about any specific group or flag trivializes this process."

Both in 2021 and in 2022, some board members argued the county was attempting to prevent the Pride flag from flying over county facilities. The debate came to a head last year when the board passed a resolution recognizing June as Pride Month, but opted against flying the rainbow flag for the first time in two years.

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