On April 4, Brigham Young University’s Provo campus held a one and a half hour forum titled “Everything you wanted to know about homosexuality but were too afraid to ask,” sponsored by BYU’s sociology department in coordination with a few sociology and psychology classes. Openly lesbian and devout Latter-day Saint Bridey Jensen, a student at BYU, was part of the panel. She said, “Both of these things are just a fundamental part of me that I never chose […] Just because I accept [that I am gay] doesn’t mean I believe in the gospel any less."
As a result of the forum’s popularity, twenty-two LGBT and straight students at the country's largest Mormon campus have bravely contributed a video to the It Gets Better Project. It features several students reconciling being LGBT with their religious beliefs and family expectations. The video comes as a refreshing surprise, given the Church of Latter-Day Saints’ historic opposition to LGBT equality. Ym0jXg-hKCI The BYU campus has seen small but significant steps toward LGBT equality in recent years. The church-owned university changed its Honor Code to accept students who openly stated they were LGBT in 2008. By 2010, BYU students, faculty, and community members formed a gay-straight alliance group (USGA). While those who are openly LGBT may enroll at BYU, it is still required that they strictly adhere to the Mormon rules by remaining celibate (just as all non-LGBT students are required). The Honor Code currently reads:
Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. Members of the university community can remain in good Honor Code standing if they conduct their lives in a manner consistent with gospel principles and the Honor Code […] One's stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity…
There has been some anti-LGBT backlash against the inclusion of LGBT students at BYU. Standard of Liberty, a website reportedly run by a husband and wife team, claims to be an "LDS-oriented" operation in Pleasant Grove. The website opposed the modification of BYU’s Honor Code to become more LGBT-inclusive and opposed participation in the LGBT student forum. Despite the opposition, BYU and students have continued to advocate for greater LGBT equality.
Yesterday, the university administration officially responded to the video’s release and media attention. According to Carri Jenkins, an assistant to the president of BYU, the video does not violate the honor code and went on to say that for the video alone, the students would not be punished. The honor code, Jenkins said, is “based on conduct, not on feeling, and if same-gender attraction is only stated, that is not an honor code issue.” If the students were to confess to acting upon their attraction (gay or straight), it would be considered breaking the code and could “result in actions up to and including separation from the university.”
Adam White, another BYU student on the panel, summarized exactly how open discussions, started by the aforementioned panel and now the video, contribute to LGBT equality. “Opening up this panel allows people to get a dialogue started in ways that aren’t volatile. It also puts a human face to these issues."
GLAAD applauds the students and faculty who were a part of the forum at BYU and those involved in the “It Gets Better” video. These efforts help others, LGBT and not, to see the LGBT community as people – probably the most compelling perspective for LGBT equality.