Just two weeks after BYU removed a section of its “honor code” to allow gay students to be in relationships, the school suddenly and unexpectedly reversed its decision, prompting outrage among those who believed that the ultra-restrictive institution was finally amending its ways.
“Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage, and is therefore not compatible with the principles of the Honor Code,” Elder Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of the Church Educational System, wrote in a statement to university students on Wednesday. In a Q&A published to the school’s website, Honor Code Office director Kevin Utt seemed aware that the school’s switcheroo would not go over well with the student body:
“We realize that emotions over the last two weeks cover the spectrum and that some have and will continue to feel isolation and pain. We encourage all members of our campus community to reach out to those who are personally affected with sensitivity, love and respect.”
According to NBC, students have been allowed to openly identify as gay since 2007, though they’ve been banned from being in same-sex relationships. The removal of the clause briefly allowed gay students the same rights to relationships enjoyed by straight students, and the fact that it’s back has caused understandable outrage.
Last week, students and community members rallied to protest, singing hymns and chanting “Let all students date!” In an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, one parent of a gay student wrote a letter addressed to the school, explaining that she was initially skeptical of BYU’s sudden relaxation of its historically anti-gay stance, fearful that something like this might happen. Turns out, she was right to worry:
I’ve seen students betrayed before, and I worried you’d snatch back the breadcrumbs you tossed their way. But as the days began stacking up, I came to believe you. We all did. So much so that many LGBTQ students who’d been hiding in the shadows stepped out into the sun.
They came out. They exposed themselves and their relationships. They felt safe because you assured them they were.
And then, in a moment too shocking to believe, you took it all back. Those kids who thought they were safe? Nope. Joke’s on them. You let them shed their skin and now it’s gone.
“It was whiplash—total, complete traumatic whiplash,” Tiauna Lomax, a junior who identifies as bisexual, told NBC. She said the school’s decision to change the honor code gave her the courage to come out to her parents.
“I felt like I had an institution that supported me... The place I called home supported me, so I could come out to my parents,” she said. The “clarification” felt like a personal rejection.
“I sobbed for hours,” she said. “It was awful to not feel wanted and betrayed like that.”