The parents of a gay Oklahoma teenager say he killed himself after attending a “toxic” city council debate in which homophobic opinions were aired.
Zach Harrington, 19, killed himself a week after attending a Norman city council debate on September 28th on whether the city should recognise Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month.
His death is one of at least ten deaths of gay US teenagers in the last month.
According to witnesses, those for and against the proposal were split evenly but opponents used Biblical language to justify their opposition.
Others apparently argued that celebrating gay history would encourages schools to promote the “gay lifestyle”. The meeting eventually approved recognising the event.
Zach’s family described the atmosphere of the meeting as “toxic” and said that if he was feeling depressed, it would not have helped him.
Nikki Harrington, Zach’s older sister, told the Norman Transcript that she believed her brother may have been hurt by what he heard.
“When he was sitting there, I’m sure he was internalising everything and analysing everything. … That’s the kind of person he was,” she said. “I’m sure he took it personally. Everything that was said.”
His father, Van Harrington, added: “I don’t think it was a place where he would hear something to make him feel more accepted by the community. For somebody like Zach, [the meeting] was probably very hard to sit through.”
Mr Harrington added that his son had come out in high school and suffered bullying and harassment over his sexual orientation. He said that the student had feared for his safety at times.
Zach’s suicide follows a number of other deaths of gay American teenagers. Most had suffered bullying and harassment, their friends and families said.