NORMAN, Okla. - It was standing room only at the Norman city council meeting Tuesday night.
Nancy and Van Harrington were sitting in the front row.
“All those red shirts - it was just amazing,” Nancy said.
The Harrington’s were very apprehensive going into the meeting, though, because of what happened in 2010.
“I think, six years ago, the community was blindsided. Nobody realized, I don’t think, that there was that level, in Norman, of animosity,” Nancy said.
Lynne Miller is the mayor of Norman.
She was not in office in 2010 but said she’s seen video from that meeting.
That’s the last time the Norman city council passed a proclamation declaring LGBTQ history month.
“It turned into a very contentious, uncomfortable meeting, and there were a lot of ugly things said,” Miller said.
Just one week after that meeting, the Harrington’s gay son, Zack Harrington, 19, took his own life.
It lit a fire under LGBTQ advocates.
“To have the loss of another one of our kids in the face of that was intolerable,” said Cindy Cason, part of MOM, Mothers of Many, a Norman LGBTQ advocacy group.
Harrington’s parents worked for years to have the proclamation passed again.
“I was always told that it wasn’t time, it was never a good time because of what happened six years ago. Everybody was scared of the opposition,” Van said.
The Harringtons sat in Tuesday night’s meeting, fearful of a repeat experience.
“It was scary, because it was so bad in 2010,” Nancy said.
But, this time, the city council voted not to allow public comment before voting on the proclamation.
They did allow it at the end of the meeting, though, when a couple people voiced their opposition.
“This proclamation and subject matter don’t bring us together. They tear us apart,” said Norman resident Eve Spaulding.
Van and Nancy said there is still a lot of work to be done but Tuesday’s decision was a step in the right direction.
And, they believe Zack would be pleased.
“I think he would be happy that it happened this way, that people persevered and said this is important,” Nancy said.
The decision by the city council was a unanimous one.