LGBT advocacy group Campus Pride has included BYU on its recent “Shame List,” described as a list of “the absolute worst campuses for LGBTQ youth” on the group’s website.
The list includes campuses that have requested exemptions to Title IX, or that have a record of discrimination against LGBT students as determined by Campus Pride. Every school on the list has a religious affiliation.
Addison Jenkins (no relation), a BYU student and president of the Understanding Same Gender Attraction (USGA) group, said BYU’s position on the list was not a surprise to him. The group is an unofficial organization of BYU students and others who share their concerns.
“I think the list highlights what is well-known: that it is difficult to be an LGBTQ student at BYU,” he said.
“The Honor Code explains that sexual orientation is not an issue. It also explicitly states the principles students are expected to follow,” BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said in an email. “If students have questions or concerns, we would hope that they would reach out to one of our administrators within the Office of Student Life.”
BYU clarified its Honor Code in 2007 to reflect that no person’s sexual orientation is against the Honor Code.
“Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards,” the official Church Educational System Honor Code reads.
Addison Jenkins (no relation) said the university could take proactive steps to improve life for its LGBT students without undermining LDS doctrine. He cited LDS Church-supported bills from the 2015 Utah legislative session — bills that dealt with both religious freedom and nondiscrimination against LGBT people — as an example.
“There’s a perception out there that it’s a zero-sum game between religious liberty and the LDS doctrine, and improving the way we treat our LGBT students,” Addison Jenkins said. “There’s a lot of common ground in the middle that I think we can work on, and I think that’s an approach that I would love to see being taken here at BYU.”
USGA member and BYU student Adena Moulton said the reasons behind BYU’s inclusion on the list are more important than the school being on the list.
“I think most students at BYU genuinely care about LGBT people in theory. However, sympathy is not the same thing as inclusion,” Moulton said. “It is not friendly to them.”
Carri Jenkins said anyone who visits BYU or is part of the BYU community should be treated with respect, dignity and love. “One of the foundational principles of Brigham Young University’s Honor Code is to treat one another with respect,” she said.