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BYU changes honor code text about gay students

Published April 17, 2007 2:29 am

It now says stated orientation is not an issue and clarifies which actions are violations
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What a difference just a few sentences can make.

A small but significant change in how Brigham Young University's honor code may be applied clarifies gay students' status just weeks after gay-rights advocates were arrested at the school.

The changes, which condemn behavior rather than sexual orientation, "remove a lot of the Gestapo atmosphere from the campus," said Brett Condron, a BYU freshman.

The new section of the honor code application reads, in part: "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 honor code is a set of rules students and staff at the school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are expected to follow in order to live the "moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ." The honor code's applications clarify the short set of rules. Students who disregard the code can be put on probation and, in rare situations, suspended.

Prior to the honor code application change, the section on homosexual behavior or advocacy read, in part: "Brigham Young University will respond to student behavior rather than to feelings or orientation. . . . Advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle (whether implied or explicit) or any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature, are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code."

That version had too many holes leading to individual interpretation, students said.

In March, a mother and son from Kanab were cited with trespassing after trying to deliver a list of concerns from former and current gay BYU students about their treatment at the school. Their actions followed the arrest last year of 29 members of Soulforce Equality Riders, the group that also organized this year's event.

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the revision is not related to Soulforce. Instead, it reflects the school's response to student questions and concerns.

"I think what it does, it better explains our position," she said.

Such changes occur on an ongoing basis. On Monday, students praised the administration's willingness to listen.

"With the previous honor code there was a lot of fear attached to it," said David Hulet, a senior. "[Now] we have clarity and understanding of what is acceptable and what isn't."

A former BYU student who is now an attorney in Seattle, Nick Literski was among bloggers buzzing about the news. Literski, a gay man who has withdrawn his membership from the church, said his daughter will attend the school this fall.

"What it's reflecting is there's a growing disconnect between church position on homosexuality versus what individual members are coming to see," he said in a phone interview.

"As more and more members of the LDS Church are coming to know individuals who are gay and finding out that they're human, that these are people just like them, that they're good people, it becomes difficult for them to demonize homosexuality the way the church positions do."

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* JULIA LYON can be contacted at jlyon@sltrib.com or 801-257-8748.

Brigham Young University will respond to student behavior rather than to feelings or orientation. Students can be enrolled at the University and remain in good Honor Code standing if they maintain a current ecclesiastical endorsement and conduct their lives in a manner consistent with gospel principles and the Honor Code. Advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle (whether implied or explicit) or any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature, are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code.

New statement:

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. 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 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. Homosexual behavior or advocacy of homosexual behavior are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings. Advocacy includes seeking to influence others to engage in homosexual behavior or promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable.