New vote set on Gay Games

CRYSTAL LAKE - The Gay Games might come to Crystal Lake after all.

Park board President Jerry Sullivan, who was on vacation in Mexico when the board denied the group's proposal with a 2-2 vote, returned Friday. He said he likely would approve the rowing event on the lake as long as logistical concerns were met.

"I think that's something we'd be able to manage without any real inconvenience," Sullivan said.

"My gut reaction would be that I most likely would be in favor of it."

Sullivan, along with park Commissioners Candy Reedy and Michael Zellmann, called a special meeting for Tuesday to reconsider the proposal. Reedy and Zellmann voted yes on Thursday. Commissioners Dave Phelps and Scott Breeden voted no.

The board will consider the proposal for the July 16 event at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Park Place, 406 W. Woodstock St.

"I'm hopeful we get another opportunity to vote on an issue where I think we were incorrect," Zellmann said. "At the core of this issue is human rights. People need to be aware of that."

Backlash, legal questions

The park district office and city hall were flooded with angry calls and e-mails from around the country Friday in the wake of the vote, which followed more than an hour of public comment.

The legality of the decision also came into question after Phelps said he could not support organizations that seek to advance "a person's agenda or sexual preference." Phelps did not return phone calls Friday. An amendment to the state's Human Rights Act that took effect Jan. 1 bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Gay Games organizers said they still wanted to bring the rowing event to Crystal Lake and would consider legal action if the board's denial stood, said Tracy Baim, a co-vice chairwoman with Gay Games Chicago.

"We don't want to let our supporters down in Crystal Lake by letting this go without further investigation," Baim said. "It would be wrong for us who live in areas that are more progressive to let our supporters down who live in Crystal Lake right now."

Breeden stands firmBreeden said he was receiving about 50 e-mails an hour Friday afternoon.

He said his "no" vote had everything to dowith allowing residents to use their lake on a Sunday in July and nothing to do with keeping gays out. But he said Friday's backlash made him wonder whether Phelps was correct in questioning the group's political motives.

"This is the most orchestrated, threatening situation I have ever found myself in," said Breeden, whose e-mail address and phone number were posted on various Web sites. "It turns out there are certain groups, apparently, you cannot have a disagreement with without being labeled."

Breeden said he stood by his decision to vote against the proposal.

"I've made my point, I'm living with it, and I'm ready to make that point again," he said.

Image concernsZellmann said Thursday's discussion included little conversation about the event's athletes or their sport.

"What surprised me is how far the conversation strayed from the topic at hand," Zellmann said. "There were people discussing AIDS and diseases and health issues, and that was so distant from the true issue, which is a unique athletic event on our lake."

Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley, who did not attend Thursday's meeting, said the board's vote caught him off guard.

"I am certainly surprised," Shepley said. "The one thing I've always believed is that when we make decisions, we make them on the merits of the proposal, not personal preference or anything else."

Shepley said he hoped that the vote would not tarnish the reputation of the city or its residents, whom he defended.

"It's not the controversy we want that puts Crystal Lake on the map," he said. "Crystal Lake is not a community that discriminates. We're not a community of people that are closed-minded."

By TOM MUSICK tmusick@nwherald.com

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