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Oklahoma gay teen commits suicide after ‘toxic’ city council debate

Sunday, October 10, 2010
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Zach Harrington

NORMAN, OK — An Oklahoma teen, Zach Harrington, 19, has committed suicide, barely one week after attending a local City Council meeting where a debate over whether or not the city would recognize October as LGBT History Month got “toxic,” with many homophobic statements being thrown around in front of him.

Some of those who opposed the proclamation claimed that members of the GLBT community would use it to infiltrate the public school system, essentially allowing the “gay lifestyle” to become a part of the curriculum, reports the Norman Transcript.

Others claimed that council recognizing October as GLBT History Month was a waste of their time. Some members of the audience even suggested that any council members voting in favor of the proclamation may have trouble getting reelected.

Numerous residents also claimed the Bible was their guiding light, citing the ancient text as their primary reason for opposing the proclamation and the GLBT community in general.

Although the ordinance eventually passed, the bigoted and hateful comments took their toll.

Harrington’s family, who described Zach as a private young man who internalized his feelings and emotions, said it was this “toxic” environment at the Sept. 28 council meeting that may have pushed him over the edge.

Watch Norman, OK residents here:

Zach, who just graduated high school in 2009, had asked to leave his school 6 months early out of fear for his safety. His sister Nikki said that life in Norman North High School was unbearable for LGBT youth, despite several pleas to school officials.

“There was one gay guy in my high school at the time, and he was made fun of all the time,” she said. “It was a pretty much non-stop thing at school.”

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