Philly’s Equality Forum today spotlights the decision in Norman, Oklahoma, a conservative town that recently debated whether October should be celebrated as GLBT History Month. After a controversial, headline-making town meeting, the seven-to-one vote was announced to approve the proclamation. It came after three hours of anti-gay rhetoric shared by many community members opposed to it. Just one week later, one of the attendees who vocally supported the month-long tribute, Zach Harrington, 19, committed suicide.
“Equality Forum mourns Zach Harrington,” says Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the organization which coordinates GLBT History Month. “Zach reminds us why we need GLBT History Month to build self esteem and buttress youth against the tsunami of homophobia in our schools and society.”
Harrington was a talented musician who graduated from Norman North High School last year, says Lazin. His older sister, Nikki Harrington, said her brother was constantly harassed for being gay at school. At one point, the gay teen requested to leave high school early in his senior year to finish his studies in a separate program.
“The GLBT community is the only community worldwide that is not taught its history at home, public schools or religious institutions,” explains Lazin. “Without this information, it is no wonder that homophobia has such a devastating impact on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. Zach and other teen suicides remind us why youth need role models, history and the civil rights message of our important national and international contributions.”