Mormon-owned BYU eases rules on ‘homosexual behavior’

Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah, date not specified | Photo by DenisTangneyJr/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Brigham Young University in Utah has revised its strict code of conduct to strip a rule that banned any behavior that reflected “homosexual feelings,” which LGBTQ students and their allies felt created an unfair double standard not imposed on heterosexual couples.

The university is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches its members that being gay isn’t a sin, but engaging in same-sex intimacy is.

BYU’s revisions to what the college calls its honor code don’t change the faith’s opposition to same-sex relationships or gay marriage. The changes were discovered by media outlets Wednesday. BYU issued a statement saying the updated version of the code aligns with a new handbook of rules unveiled by the faith, widely known as the Mormon church.

A phone call to BYU officials seeking more information about the change wasn’t immediately returned.

The faith has tried to carve out a more compassionate stance toward LGBTQ people over the last decade while adhering to its doctrinal belief that same-sex relationships are a sin.

An entire section in the code that was dedicated to “homosexual behavior” has been removed. The clause that upset people was the part that said “all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings” is prohibited.

Students had previously complained about the clause that was eliminated, which they said was interpreted to be a ban on gay couples holding hands or kissing. Those behaviors are allowed for heterosexual couples, though premarital sex is banned.

BYU’s Honor Code bans other things that are commonplace at other colleges — including drinking, beards and piercings. Students who attend the university in Provo, Utah, south of Salt Lake City, agree to adhere to the code. Nearly all students are members of the faith. Punishments for violations range from discipline to suspension and expulsion.

Last year, several hundred students rallied to call on BYU officials to be more compassionate with punishments for honor code violators.

The code was criticized in 2016 by female students who spoke out against the school opening honor-code investigations of students who reported sexual abuse to police. The college changed the policy to ensure that students who report sexual abuse would no longer be investigated for honor code violations.

Written by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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