CRYSTAL LAKE - A tie vote after more than an hour of public comment Thursday resulted in the Crystal Lake Park District Board's denial of an application by Gay Games Chicago.
Little board discussion or public comment included talk of the proposed July 16 rowing event, which would have brought 125 to 150 people to Crystal Lake as one of 30 Gay Games events in the Chicago area.
Most of the comments focused on support or opposition of the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians.
Commissioners Candy Reedy and Michael Zellmann voted to approve the Gay Games request while Commissioners Scott Breeden and Dave Phelps voted against it. Commissioner Jerry Sullivan, who could have cast a tie-breaking vote, was absent.
Sunita Stone of Crystal Lake said the Gay Games do not fit with what she calls the city's wholesome environment.
"I didn't want to have to be explaining a lot of things to my kids," Stone said.
Joel Anderson of Crystal Lake spoke on behalf of a fellowship of local pastors, saying the event focused on sexual orientation not competition.
"The decision is not about the event but about the event with a particular agenda," he said.
Congregational Unitarian Church Minister Dan Larsen said who made the request did not matter.
"Everybody has a right to row their boat," he said.
Some people who spoke thought that many people who opposed the event did so for one reason.
"Let's make it very clear tonight," said Tracy Baim, Gay Games Chicago co-vice chair. "This is about gay people."
Several speakers emphasized that gays and lesbians are part of the local community.
"For everyone concerned with all these gay people who are converging on your community, we are already here," said Loretta Cattani of Union.
Zellmann said he thought it was unfortunate that the discussion became a social platform.
"I voted yes simply on the athletic event," he said.
Phelps said he had problems with organizations that state sexuality.
"My job is to do what is best for the community," Phelps said. "The Crystal Lake Park District should not be a vehicle for a person's agenda or sexual preference."
He said he would not support requests of groups that designate themselves heterosexual or homosexual. When asked whether that violated the Illinois Human Rights Act that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, Phelps said, "I guess that's up to the courts."
Breeden said he voted against the request because of how few summer weekends he, his neighbors and park district residents could use the lake, though Gay Games officials said Main Beach would not be closed during the event.
"That's where my concern is," Breeden said. "I'm not going to form my opinion on sexuality by any means."
Reedy said the same thing at the end of the meeting as she did before the public comments.
"I think it's a nice opportunity to showcase the lake and the rowing club," she said.
By KAREN LONG firstname.lastname@example.org