It would seem a simple question: Whether to give rowers a permit to have a boat race this summer on a small man-made lake about 50 miles northwest of Chicago. But because the rowers are gay - participating in something called the Gay Games- what would normally be a mundane debate about parking and street closures is instead a heated battle between those who see the event as a threat to their small town way of life and those who see those views as simply small-minded.
Babwin's story describes the mean-spirited and hateful tone of the Christian right activists. "'Make no mistake: The purpose of the Gay Games is to legitimize homosexuality and make it appear as a wholesome lifestyle choice,' wrote Tim Coakley, a critic of the games . . . It's the same with Sunita Stone. 'Crystal Lake is a G-rated place, ' she said. 'There's no reason to start making things racy. If you want to go to Chicago to do that, that's fine. I'm not going to go there.'" That kind of talk led one couple to make this observation about their city Babwin reports: "After wondering if Crystal Lake's motto should be 'homophobic capital of the Midwest,' they asked, 'How proud are we to live in such a narrow-minded, backward hateful community?'"
The city's mayor, Aaron Shepley, predicts the city council will allow the rowing event to take place. "This is only an endorsement of the First Amendment and the anti-discrimination laws of the state," Shepley said. "That's all it is - following the law." But Shepley showed his displeasure with the event being hosted in his city in the same breath. Babwin writes:
Mayor Aaron Shepley said he thinks the Gay Games organizers have made the event more about a statement on gays and lesbians and not rowing, thus putting Crystal Lake at the center of a debate about social values. "To the extent that part of the agenda of promoters was to draw attention to a social platform, they've been successful," he said. "And to an extent it's been at the expense of Crystal Lake's image."
Advance Indiana is a little surprised by Mayor Shepley's attitude. That's not the liberal Democrat AI Editor Gary Welsh remembered from his political science classes at Eastern Illinois University where both he and Shepley were political science majors. It seems that it was members of his own community who made it a debate on social values. A similar reaction has not been encountered in the City of Chicago and other surrounding communities hosting other events. If he's worried about Crystal Lake's image, he should spend more time advocating tolerance within it. It is after all the law in Illinois as he duly notes.