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BYU students organized a large Pride march despite their Mormon school’s anti-LGBTQ policies

Brigham Young University Pride parade
Photo: Shutterstock

Numerous students of Brigham Young University (BYU) — the Mormon anti-LGBTQ university in Provo, Utah — organized an unofficial BYU Pride march late last month despite the school’s ban on same-sex romantic behavior.

While the march’s actual student organizers have remained anonymous, over 1,000 people attended the march including current and former BYU students, them reported. Their signs reportedly proclaimed, “All Are Alike Unto God” and “You Are Loved.” An Instagram account for the march also appeared, and the march’s supporters have said they would like to repeat the event next year.

Related: Report: Brigham Young University punishes gay rape victims not rapists

“At BYU, we still live with residual institutionalized homophobia that successfully turns us against each other,” a June 25 post on the BYU Pride Instagram post declared. “It is now our turn to unite as one family in making BYU a welcoming place for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious standing.”

Among the marchers’ demands, they want BYU to release a statement affirming support for LGBTQ students and to change the school’s honor code to stop discriminating against LGBTQ couples. Marchers also want the school to provide more resources for LGBTQ students, including allowing LGBTQ clubs and events to operate on campus.

“Though the future we ask for may seem unrealistic, BYU has come a long way in providing support for our community,” the Instagram post continued.

The statement noted that BYU has recently “removed hateful language from their policies [and] … been tolerant of some demonstrations,” but the school’s anti-LGBTQ antagonism has a long and ongoing history.

On February 19, 2020, the school revised its student honor code to remove a clause prohibiting “all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.” However, two weeks later, the director of the Honor Code Office, Kevin Utt, clarified that the code still prohibited “any same-sex romantic behavior.”

In March, students lit up BYU’s sign in rainbow colors to show support for LGBTQ equality. The school quickly denounced the display and said it violated their policies.

A short history of BYU’s anti-LGBTQ policies

From 1959 to the mid-’90s, the school ran “aversion therapy” programs meant to “cure” homosexuality. The programs administered vomit-inducing drugs or electrical shocks to people’s arms or genitals while showing them same-sex pornographic images.

In 1962, the school officially banned gay students over worries that they would “contaminate” other students. In the mid- and late ’70s, the school’s security chief planted listening devices, fake gay ads in local paper and surveilled local gay bars to try and detect gay students.

From 1976 to 1985, the school had a “Values Insitute” specifically meant to further anti-gay scholarship. Then, in the late ’90s, the school prohibited “homosexual conduct” in its Honor Code, even going so far as to forbid “regular association with gay men.” In 2000, the school kicked out 13 students caught watching the groundbreaking gay TV series, Queer As Folk.

In 2011, the Honor Code also prohibited homosexual advocacy, defined as “seeking to influence others to engage in homosexual behavior or promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable.” The prohibition sounds very much like Russia’s law forbidding all “homosexual propaganda.”

Though the school’s policies don’t explicitly mention transgender students, by 2017, faculty members had been advised that any women with shaved heads or men wearing makeup should be reported for violating the Honor Code.

Gay BYU students have killed themselves throughout the school’s history.

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