Protests have erupted at Brigham Young University (BYU) after officials circulated a statement re-iterating the school’s anti-LGBTQ stance. BYU is a private school in Provo, Utah owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has been under fire for years for imposing a restrictive “honour code” on students and staff.

The code bans homosexuality, premarital sex, and alcohol consumption, among other things. BYU is legally able impose restrictions because of its religious status and because it is a private institution. 

BYU honour code update causes confusion

Two weeks ago, officials quietly removed references to homosexual behaviour from its honour code, leading some to believe the school had loosened its stance.

Students who disagreed with the policy saw the updated code as a win and celebrated.

Some hugged and others kissed. Some spoke openly about their partners and posted photos on social media.

“I feel free and cared for by the university for the first time in a long time,” Franchesca Lopez, a sociology undergraduate told CNN.

“I really hope they don’t disappoint me again.”

Unfortunately, they did.

‘Clarification’ sparks protests

On Wednesday BYU issued a statement clarifying that same-sex “behaviour” is not endorsed by the school.

“The moral standards of the Church did not change with the recent release of the General Handbook or the updated Honour Code,” Elder Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of the church educational system, wrote.

“Same-sex behaviour cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honour Code.”

Widespread protests followed, along with the establishment of a GoFundMe to help LGBTQ students transfer out.

“In a cruel bait-and-switch, BYU announced [two] weeks ago that homosexual dating and behaviour was going to be allowed by the Honour Code, only to fully renege said statements,” reads the GoFundMe.

“In that brief time period, many queer BYU students have come out and displayed acts of queerness on campus …These same students are now at risk for punishment.”

The fund is intended to support students who no longer feel safe, but risk losing scholarships, employment, and housing if they leave BYU.

“Our hope is to offset any losses for queer students transferring out of BYU, so that they may feel empowered to do so if they so desire. We are also investigating the possibility of working with other LGBTQ+ resource centers in colleges across the state to see if they would be willing to subsidize any of their costs for queer students transferring out of BYU in an effort to maximize the lengths these donations will go,” the GoFundMe says.

In a Twitter statement, BYU said there may have been “miscommunication as to what the Honour Code changes mean,” but as of the time of this writing, it has yet to elaborate.

Header image courtesy: Pexels/Anna Schvets