Hundreds of BYU students protest over Honor Code for a second day

(George Frey | special to The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU students and others gather in front of the Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center on the campus of Brigham Young University to protest BYUÕs rollback of a newly announced policy change on LGBTQ students on March 5, 2020 in Provo, Utah.

The invitation went out on social media around Brigham Young University: Meet at “The Wilk” — the Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center, the student union building on the Provo campus. One Twitter user instructed: “Wear good walking shoes, bring hats and sunscreen, wear BYU gear, bring signs.”

Word spread, and a couple of hundred people launched into a second day of protests at the school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The protests are in response to the school’s reaffirmation Wednesday that same-sex relationships were still “not compatible” with the school’s Honor Code — despite removing the code’s ban on “homosexual behavior” last month.

Ryan Jenks, a BYU senior who helped organize the protest, said Thursday’s rally was markedly more organized than the demonstration that popped up soon after the church’s surprise announcement Wednesday.

There were more protesters assembled at the start and more materials for signs because attendees had been able to prepare. And while protesters’ emotions were raw Wednesday, Jenks said, on Thursday people were tired but determined to persist.

“There was a mood of consistency, like wanting to stay at this until they recognize that we’re part of this community and we’re not going to go away, and what they did wasn’t right,” Jenks said. “Just this desire to keep going and keep trying until we’re heard.”

Jenks, who is a part of the LGBTQ community, said demonstrators aren’t naive. They know the educational system isn’t going to backtrack on its Honor Code clarification, at least not any time soon.

What he and others want is an apology, he said, and for LGBTQ students to be looped into conversations about decisions that impact them.

“We don’t feel like our input is taken into consideration and we feel like these individuals who don’t know what our lives are like continue making decisions for us with this idea that they’re making our lives better,” Jenks said. “But they continue to make our lives significantly worse.”

Kyle Broderick, a 19-year-old pre-business student who came out as gay in February, after the ban’s removal, got a surprise before Thursday’s protest began: His mother, Joni, who had flown from Virginia to Salt Lake City to attend a conference, wanted to drive to Provo to take part.

“She was all in,” Kyle Broderick said. “She was telling me she could get posters, and she had pins and rainbow ribbons and all this stuff.”

Joni Broderick made two signs. One stated “Moms Love Boldly” across the top, with an added message, “Listen Love Learn from our BYU Students.” The other, Kyle Broderick said, read, “Free Mom Hugs.”

Many students at the protest took her up the offer. Hugs were plentiful. “I had more than one tell me, ‘You don’t know how much this means,’ ” she said.

Her son agreed. “It showed there are adults, and parents, out there that are supporting the LGBTQ community,” Kyle Broderick said. “A lot of times, we can feel it’s just the students, the younger generation. So it’s really good to have an older generation to show their support.”

Joni Broderick came to Utah to attend the North Star Conference in Salt Lake City. The gathering of Latter-day Saint members “reconciling faith with sexual orientation and gender identity” started Thursday evening and runs through Saturday.

Joni Broderick, a BYU alumna, said she and her family have had to “relearn” a lot in the last six months, since Kyle came out to them.

“Everything I was taught about gay people does not fit how I know my son,” she said. “He’s such a good, kind, loving, accepting person. And if someone like him is gay, then everything that we have known about gay people in the past is not accurate.”

Setting foot on campus for Wednesday’s protest, Joni Broderick said, “I just felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb, because I’ve never done this before. … This is out of my comfort zone, for sure, but because of my son, I’m willing to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

The demonstrations are moving north, with a protesters planning an event Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Church Office Building, 50 E. North Temple, Salt Lake City. The theme of Friday’s event is “Just Let Us Love One Another.”

The goal, according to one of the organizers, AnnElise Guerisoli, is “to create a space to vocalize the thoughts and feelings of many of our active, believing and nonbelieving, LGBTQ+ community.”

Jorden Jackson, another organizer, said their hope is that people can come “with the range of emotions they are feeling right now, and recognize that LGBTQ+ members are not separate from Mormonism or from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

They are “part of us and with us,” Jackson said, “but they are hurting right now.”

Tribune reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack contributed to this report.