The Norman Transcript

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October 10, 2010

North grad took own life after week of 'toxic' comments

NORMAN — A week after attending a Norman City Council meeting where a heated debate played out in public, 19-year-old Zach Harrington took his own life at his family’s home in Norman.

At the Sept. 28 meeting Harrington attended at City Hall, the council acknowledged receipt of a proclamation recognizing October as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month in the city. Council voted 7 to 1 in favor of it, with only Councilman Dan Quinn casting a nay vote.

Support for and opposition to the proclamation were fairly even and the public comment portion of the agenda item lasted for three hours — the entire time allotted.

The entire process was an exercise in representative government, with both sides — and those in between — given their chance to speak their minds.

One man said he moved to Norman because he thought it was the kind of place that would never accept the GLBT community with open arms. A woman, who described herself as “bi-racial,” said she was tired of the GLBT plight being compared to Civil Rights.

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.

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.

And for those in attendance, it was hard to ignore the intolerant grumblings, the exasperated sighs and cold, hard stares that followed comments from supporters of the GLBT proclamation.

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