Fifth Gay Teen Suicide in Three Weeks Sparks Debate

As mourners were honoring Tyler Clementi, news came of a fifth suicide.

October 3, 2010, 1:04 PM

Oct. 3, 2010— -- Mourners at Rutgers University honored the memory of Tyler Clementi, whose death last week was one of five suicides by gay teenagers in the last three weeks.

Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge Tuesday, days after his roommate allegedly posted video on the Internet of him having sex with another man.

The recent eruption of gay teen suicides has been across the country, from the East Coast to Indiana, Texas to California, where 13-year-old Seth Walsh, who recently hanged himself, was memorialized Friday night.

Walsh, whose family said he was harassed by bullies for being gay, died Tuesday, after being in a coma for nine days.

"The harassment and the teasing and the taunting just became too much," Seth's grandmother, Judly Walsh said Friday night at a memorial service in Tehachapi, Calif.

Police interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he died, but determined that their actions do not constitute a crime.

In Clementi's case, the young man's roommate, Dharun Ravi, and another classmate, Molly Wei, face several charges of invasion of privacy for what prosecutors say was a surreptitious filming of Clementi in his own dorm room, a recording that they then allegedly broadcast live on the Internet.

New Jersey law enforcement officials have said they are still investigating the case, trying to determine whether they can pursue more serious charges against Ravi and Wei.

Lawyers for Ravi and Wei have not returned messages left by ABC News but Ravi's attorney, Steve Altman, told the New Jersey Star-Ledger that he does not think his client can be held criminally responsible for Clementi's death.

In another recent case, Raymond Chase, an openly gay 19-year-old student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., hanged himself in his dorm room Wednesday.

While his brother told ABC News that it was not brought on by bullying, his suicide has sparked further debate on the nature of support for gay teens and gays on American campuses.

"It is important to allow young people to come out and to find support and to realize that once you do come out you're not alone," said Shane Windmeyer, the executive director of Campus Pride, an organization focused on building safer and more LGBT-friendly campuses.

The deaths have provoked nationwide introspection about bullying, and how gay teens are treated, from the heartland to Hollywood.

Openly gay singer Lance Bass recently admitted that as a closeted teen he would take part in bullying of other students.

"I can tell you right now, when I was in high school in Mississippi, I was one of the first ones to jump on the bandwagon to make fun of a gay person," Bass recently told MTV.

Windmeyer said that when celebrities throw their support behind an issue it can be a major help.

"It brings acceptance, it brings the issue right into the forefront, in many ways gets this into the hearts and minds who need to hear about it," Windmeyer said.

According to a recently released study by Campus Pride on how gay students are treated in higher education, gay students experienced significantly greater harassment and discrimination, and they were more likely to seriously consider leaving school because of it.

The study also found that there is a lack of safety and inclusiveness for gay students on campuses across the country.

There is hope, however, that in light of Tyler Clementi's tragic death, and the nation's shock at its circumstances, bullying of gay teens is an issue that schools are now being forced to address.