Deploying the colors of the transgender pride flag, a group of LGBTQ+ allies lit up Brigham Young University’s iconic “Y” in pink, blue and white on the mountain above BYU on Saturday night.
A little over a year earlier, a group of LGBTQ+ students lit the “Y” up in rainbow colors — and the school, operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, responded by cracking down on protests and unapproved gatherings.
These new policies were enforced the week of March 4, the anniversary of the rainbow lighting. The university earlier this month also had workers surround the white concrete letter on the hillside with orange mesh fencing and signs.
Jerilyn Pool, a board member of the Provo Pride Council and founder of the nonprofit QueerMeals, was at the trailhead up to the “Y” Saturday night. She said no BYU students or staffers were involved in the lighting, to keep them safe from repercussions, and that most of the hikers going up to the “Y” were parents of LGBTQ+ kids or allies.
Because BYU owns the trail up to the concrete “Y” and the surrounding property, the school can enforce restrictions. A person who violates the rule prohibiting demonstrations could be charged with a class B misdemeanor for trespassing.
If convicted, the person could land in jail for up to six months and pay a $1,000 fine.
“It’s nerve-wracking because you don’t know what they’re going to do,” Pool said. “Who defines what a demonstration is? And who defines what reasonable accesses? I think it comes down to that, and who’s going to end up calling the shots on that? Is it going to be a judge? Is it BYU? I don’t know.”
Pool said a few BYU police cars and officers were at the trailhead Saturday night but that around the time of the lighting at 8 p.m., only one car was present. She added there were officers at the gate but that they didn’t stop anyone.
“Everyone that was up there was briefed that it is possible that they could be arrested,” Pool said. “And every single person is willing to be arrested, if it means keeping LGBTQ students at BYU safe.”
The lighting was livestreamed by the “Latter Gay Stories” podcast on its Facebook Live page, and on the YouTube channel of the “Mormon Stories” podcast.
As of about 9 p.m. on Saturday night, flashlights danced down the mountain as hikers descended the trail. A spokesperson said BYU police did not get involved, and no arrest were made, but Pool said people were coming down after authorities told them to leave.
“With ongoing trans issues all across the nation, and especially in Utah, it’s important to shine a light on the trans community,” Pool said, “so that they know they have allies here in Utah.”