Jacob Lawrence Orosco (1980-1997)
Although Jacob Orosco wasn't a Mormon, he lived in Utah, a state where the teachings of the LDS
Church profoundly influence public policy and the atmosphere in the schools. State law
forbids Utah's public school teachers from saying anything in the classroom that would imply
acceptance or advocacy of homosexuality. When Jacob and nine other friends tried to form a
Gay/Straight Alliance, a group of students at West High, across town, formed SAFE--Students
Against Fags Everywhere. A state legislator talked of "serious concerns about
the group's moving into recruitment of fresh meat for the gay population."
Jacob was out of the closet, not just to friends and family but to the entire community.
He had helped found a gay club at his high school, a move that had prompted the Salt Lake
City school board to shut down all extracurricular activities rather than grant the club
Jacob was highly regarded by his friends and peers in the East High School
Gay/Straight Alliance. He was gentle, funny, and warm-hearted. He was slated to be the
Alliance's president in the 1997-1998 school year. When he took his life in his mother's
home on September 3, 1997, he was 17, a senior in high school.
In his final days, Jacob had been busy reorganizing the club. Despite the ban on
extracurricular clubs, the Gay/Straight Alliance had held evening meetings last spring at
his school, East High, which is required by law to rent space to community organizations.
In his final days, he had been dealing with a new obstacle, finding $400 to buy a $1 million
liability insurance policy demanded by the school before the club could resume its evening
"Jacob stood out as a dynamic, funny and seemingly confident young man," wrote Jeff Dupre
and Eliza Byard, two documentary filmmakers who interviewed Jacob and others involved in the
club for their film, Out of the Past, on the history of gays and lesbians in the
United States. "He was an accomplished athlete, a talented gymnast and an inspiration to
the fellow members of the [Gay/Straight] Alliance... a vibrant and impressive young man
who turned handsprings on a sunny lawn to the applause and admiration of his friends."
Words by Jacob:
"To me, taking clubs from us is like putting a gun in our hands and waiting for the trigger
to be pulled."
Jacob Orosco: In Memory of a Teen Activist
Jacob Orosco Memorial Fund (The Touchstone, Sep-Oct 1997)
Who's to Blame? (What's Up Magazine, 26 September 1997)
Jacob Lawrence Orosco: February 17, 1980 – September 3, 1997 (ACLU Reporter,
For Teen Gay Activist, a Sudden, Baffling End