Regular Day at Gay Games except for a Few Protesters, Proponents of Crystal Lake Event Happy It Was like Any Other Day at the Beach
St. Clair, Stacy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Stacy St. Clair Daily Herald Staff Writer
Toni Weaver didn't know what to expect when she arrived at Crystal Lake Sunday morning for the 2006 Gay Games rowing competition.
In the months leading up to the event, a heated - and often vitriolic - debate had ensued about its appropriateness.
Would, as some opponents predicted, Crystal Lake turn its back on the Games? Or would it welcome the competition as if it were another day at the beach?
Weaver, the president of Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays' McHenry County chapter, saw her answer as soon as she walked into the park. The owners of several lake homes were flying rainbow flags, a symbol of gay rights, from their docks and boats.
"It brought a tear to my eye," she said. "I had been afraid about how things would go today. It just lifted my spirit."
Police and fire department officials reported no problems or arrests Sunday. In fact, once inside the park's gates, it seemed like an ordinary day on Crystal Lake.
Local families picnicked along the shore, as others waded into water to seek refuge from the scalding sun. The 65 athletes registered for the event, meanwhile, practiced in lake and socialized with spectators.
It was, in the end, the peaceful image proponents painted when they lobbied to hold the games here.
"It's just another day at the beach," said John Cepek, the incoming president of the national PFLAG organization. "This shows lesbians and gays are like everyone else. They've been coming to beaches with their families and blending in for years."
The Games, a weeklong event that the Chicago area is hosting for the first time, comes at a critical moment in the Gay Rights movement. Bans against same-sex marriage have fueled debate and, in some cases legal action, in Congress and 19 states including Illinois.
The tension surrounding the hot-button issue was apparent in March, when the Crystal Lake park board voted to allow the rowing competition. Opponents booed the decision, calling it a sin against God and suggesting the competition would promote promiscuity. …