Hundreds of students, alumni and community members gathered outside the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City Friday afternoon to protest in support of LGBT students at CES schools.
This has been the third day in a row of Honor Code protests following the release of a CES letter explaining the changes to the Honor Code. The first two protests were outside the Wilkinson Student Center on the BYU campus; however, supporters traveled to Salt Lake today to protest at the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “where the decision was made,” said event organizer Jorden Jackson.
The protests started at 3 p.m. and lasted a few hours. Protestors waved flags, displayed signs, chanted in unison and sang hymns like “I Am a Child of God” and “Love One Another.”
The protest began at the Church Office Building, and then protestors marched around Temple Square, cheering as cars honked in support as they drove past.
The march ended in City Creek Park where protestors gathered to rally and listen to speakers, including former “Studio C” member Stacy Harkey, who came out as gay in 2018, and event organizers Jorden Jackson and AnnElise Guerisoli.
Jackson and Guerisoli said they didn’t know what to expect in terms of attendees because they hadn’t publicized the event until yesterday.
“We had no idea what to expect other than we knew people would show up. We knew people were ready,” Guerisoli, a BYU alumna, said.
Guerisoli lives in Oakland, California, but said when she saw the news, she felt like it was important for her to get involved. “I hope to see pride and no more shame,” she said.
“I hope this is the beginning,” said Jackson, a BYU graduate student. “We made some noise, we got some attention. I hope people in the Church Office Building saw how many people came and showed up who were expressing their hurt and their desire to go back to two weeks ago when LGBTQ students could date.”
University of Utah student Hannah Källåker said the CES letter sent out Wednesday, March 4, was “really disappointing.”
“I wanted to come out here and support the students over at BYU because you shouldn’t have to fear because of who you love and how you express that,” she said. “I only came out a year ago and it’s terrifying when you’re afraid that the people around you are not going to accept you. So I just wanted to come out here and lend my voice.”
BYU pre-business student Paul Jones defined the changes as “a slap in the face.”
“The recent changes to the Honor Code are completely inappropriate. It’s like a slap in the face, changing it two weeks ago from what it was, which was perfect,” Jones said. “It was awesome and allowed LGBTQ students to date openly and obey the law of chastity safely, and not feel discriminated against. And now they take it back. It’s like a slap in the face and that’s not tolerable.”
UVU student Zoe Clair said she came to support the LGBT community and her best friend’s boyfriend who is a gay BYU student.
“He’s gone through so much mistreatment and he’s treated as less than a human being, when he’s going through stuff that any one of us would,” she said. “It’s time for BYU to change.”
Clair said she thinks a factor that can help facilitate change is when people speak up, like those participating in the protest.
“Speak up, regardless of your sexuality, regardless of what you believe. You should want love for everybody and you should want everyone to feel safe. To not feel safe where you’re supposed to learn, where you’re supposed to grow and discover who you are and discover how you’re going to contribute to the world — that needs to stop.”
BYU junior Eliza Bennett said she decided to participate in the protests because she thinks everyone deserves to feel loved and welcomed at the university.
“The love and support that we all felt in the community when BYU announced the changes was so beautiful, and to have it revoked just hurt so much, and so I think they need to know how much this is affecting people’s lives.”
Bennett added that as a straight, white female at BYU, she has the responsibility to fight for her friends who are struggling.
“If you’re an ally, you cannot be a silent ally; you need to protest,” she said.