NEW YORK (Reuters) - The parents of a Rutgers University student who committed suicide after learning his roommate spied on his gay tryst said his death has caused them to rethink their views on homosexuality, which they no longer believe is a sin.
Tyler Clementi’s parents, in an interview to be aired on NBC on Thursday, spoke publicly for the first time since the roommate, Dharun Ravi, was sentenced for using a webcam to observe Clementi kiss another man and for encouraging others to watch too.
Clementi’s parents are Christians and suggested in the interview that there was a time when they thought homosexuality was a sin.
Joseph Clementi, Tyler Clementi’s father, said he had revised his views.
“Sin needs to be taken out of homosexuality,” he said. “Our children need to understand and adults need to understand that they’re not broken. And once they understand that I think the church can move forward.”
Jane Clementi, the dead student’s mother, told NBC she was “shocked” by her son’s coming out, but that she now has “very different thoughts” on sexuality. Her son James Clementi is also gay.
Days after Tyler Clementi, 18, learned of the spying, he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010.
The Clementi family said they believe the humiliation Tyler Clementi felt after learning his intimate moments were fodder for social media pushed the troubled teen to commit suicide.
“Whatever underlying depressions or pains that were going on with, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and that was the thing that pushed him to the breaking point,” James Clementi, one of Tyler Clementi’s two brothers, said in the interview.
Also among Tyler Clementi’s troubles was his mother’s reaction to him coming out as a gay man shortly before he left home to begin his freshman year at Rutgers, where he would meet his new roommate, Ravi.
At the time he told a friend he felt like he had been “completely rejected” by his mother.
Jane and Joseph Clementi criticized the judge who sentenced Ravi to 30 days in jail for the bias crime, commonly known as a hate crime.
“I think the judge sent a clear message to other prosecutors,” Jane Clementi said during the interview. “This isn’t worthwhile. There are no consequences for these actions.”
Ravi, 20, was not charged with playing any part in Clementi’s death.
Earlier this month, Ravi was released from jail after serving 20 days behind bars, with credit for good behavior. The sentence handed down by Judge Glenn Berman also includes 300 hours of community service and a fine of about $10,000.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Andrew Hay