Gay Teen Takes Life After Norman City Council Meeting

Sunday, October 10th 2010, 7:19 pm
By: News On 6

By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Oklahoma -- A 19-year old gay man committed suicide following a heated Norman city council meeting that focused on homosexuality, the teen's family said.

The family of Zach Harrington said their son killed himself after attending the September 28 city council meeting.

In a 7-1 vote, the council approved a proclamation that night recognizing October as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month in the city of Norman. But before the vote, dozens spoke to the council in favor and against the measure.

"I also think it's not dark thinking or bigoted thinking to have an opposition to this...But it's clear thinking," said one Norman resident during the meeting.

"Recruiting children into these lifestyles will be very easy with this kind of open format," said another resident during the city council meeting.

WATCH: 09/28/10 Norman City Council meeting

Zachary Harrington's father said it wasn't the meeting alone that drove his son to take his own life, but it certainly didn't help. Van Harrington said his son, who was living in Arkansas, drove all the way to his hometown of Norman to see what the city council would do. What he and so many others got was a three-hour verbal debate on the gay lifestyle.

"So many of the comments tonight are made out of lack of understanding, a lack of education, and just plain ignorance," said a Norman resident at the city council meeting.

Zach's father said his son was a very private person who came out during high school. He said the Norman North graduate was bullied and harassed at school for being gay. Van Harrington said he feels a lack of acceptance from society and what he calls a "toxic meeting" last month is what finally pushed Zach over the edge.

Several events are planned this week to spotlight gay youth and bullying.

Tuesday, October 12 the University of Central Oklahoma's GATE (Gay Alliance for Tolerance and Equality) organization is holding a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. at Hafer Park in Edmond to discuss the issue of bullies who target gay and lesbian youth.

On Wednesday, October 13 the University of Oklahoma Sooner Ally organization is holding a candlelight vigil at 8:00 at the Unity Garden on campus to remember those who have experienced harassment.