In what is being hailed as the Equality Ride’s first victory in the changing of policies discriminating against openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students at Christian colleges & universities across the country, Brigham Young University announced yesterday that they have revised their student code of conduct policies regarding openly gay students and the “advocacy” of LGBT civil and human rights.
According to a press release from Soulforce:
Three weeks after the Soulforce Equality Ride visited the campus to deliver a list of community concerns for the wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, officials at Brigham Young University have amended the section of the student honor code that deals with sexual orientation.
The revised code states that “Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or orientation and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. . . . One’s stated sexual orientation 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.”
The previous code identified “any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature” as violations of the honor code.
In a letter to Soulforce, Will Carson, Policy and Strategy Coordinator for Equality Utah, acknowledged the Equality Ride’s role in the change: “As a result of your visit, several students contacted the administration of BYU to ask about the University’s Honor Code. Because of those questions and concerns, BYU has changed the code in significant ways.”
“BYU’s policy can now be summarized as ‘Do ask, do tell, don’t do.'” Carson continued.
“This is an important step in the path toward equal rights because it is only through dialogue that we can eliminate fear and achieve a fair and just Utah. Thank you for helping to open the door a bit further.”
While the Equality Ride certainly isn’t solely responsible for the change in BYU policy, I think it is pretty clear that this would never have happened – and students at BYU never would have started asking questions – if the Equality Ride had not taken action on these hugely important issues surrounding sexuality, faith, Christianity and the pain and struggles of LGBT Christians and youth.
I don’t think us Equality Riders have yet to fully realize the impact we are having in our journey across America. The BYU policy change will certainly help us realize this, but at the same time, I don’t think we will begin to realize the full impact of just the BYU policy change until later. We are all so busy… all so emotionally, physically and spiritually invested in so many things that our minds certainly can find it difficult to fit another thing in.
BYU deserves HUGE credit for stepping up and changing the policy. Yeah, yeah, yeah… the policy is still homophobic and discriminatory, but for BYU the policy change is among some of the biggest strides it has made in recognizing that LGBT students do have some rights and privileges on the campus.
Take, for example, the Civil Rights Movement for African-Americans. Change certainly didn’t occur overnight. Policies, laws and regulations regarding the civil and human rights of blacks took time to change and they changed little by little until, int he 1960s, the movement struck a breaking point with the American public and people began to fully realize that wrongs of the past – and started to correct them (through such large means as the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act).
If, at any time, you have ever doubted the effectiveness of non-violent resistance, now is one of those times when it can be plainly seen how well it works.
I have no doubt that more changes will be coming. Like I said, it takes time… but it will occur. This new policy certainly isn’t going to stop oppression on the campus of BYU, but it is a step forward. With each step forward, a brighter light will be seen. It is up to all of us to make sure that BYU keeps stepping forward – and not back.
Would this policy change have occurred if the Equality Ride had not have taken action? I don’t know, but the Ride certainly helped it along.