The ‘Y’ was lit in rainbow colors Thursday night, sparking joy among LGBT students and allies as well as outrage from other members of the BYU community.
The Y lighting was the grande finale of “Rainbow Day,” a day set aside each semester to show support for LGBT students and faculty. The tradition is sponsored by Color the Campus, an organization founded by BYU student Bradley Talbot in 2019. About 40 individuals participated in the event, which lasted from 8-9 p.m.
Talbot, a gay BYU senior, told the Daily Universe he was responsible for planning the rainbow lighting of the Y, which he hopes was inspiring and comforting to LGBT students and faculty.
“It’s not a symbol of protest; it’s a symbol of unity,” Talbot said.”We are here and we are going to be supporting and loving (LGBT students and faculty) no matter what. And we hope to do that with BYU.”
For Calvin Burke, a gay BYU senior, Rainbow Day was “a celebration of love and belonging for students like me, who do not often feel like we belong or are loved.”
About 20 minutes after the Y was lit, the university released a statement on social media saying it “did not authorize the lighting of the Y tonight.”
Talbot said he wasn’t too concerned about the response. “I think they were just a little panicked,” he said. “It’s a little humorous that they felt the need to do it so quickly when it took them two weeks to respond to the Honor Code changes last year.”
The tweet was met with backlash from both individuals who supported and opposed the rainbow Y. LGBT individuals and allies suggested that the tweet reflected the university’s lack of support for the LGBT community.
“If you truly cared about education and the gospel, you would care about all your students. Very proud of @colorthecampus and all LGBTQ+ students and allies at BYU,” said writer Kevin Carr O’Leary in response to BYU’s tweet.
“The reality of the situation is that BYU is in a tricky spot with this. That being said — this comment does nothing but reward the hateful beliefs and rhetoric of bigots who use the good name of the Church and BYU to discriminate against others,” said @kylecoug in response to BYU’s tweet.
Others condemned BYU for the statement, using religious language to condemn LGBT individuals.
“Take it down! Things like that don’t belong at a school owned by the church,” tweeted @misterultra4k.
Shortly following its first tweet, BYU released another one, stating “The Y is BYU property and any form of public expression on university property requires prior approval.”
Talbot said he didn’t attempt to seek approval for the event since it was an extension of Rainbow Day, which he said the university is aware of but doesn’t officially approve.
“I do recognize that there could be some repercussions — and I could have gone through better channels — but I’m prepared to face those consequences,” he said. “This is more important to me than anything that BYU could do … I know this is risky, but I was willing to take those risks, and I don’t regret it.”
BYU Police Lt. Jeff Long said the department received three calls reporting the incident; however, no police action was taken since “no crime was committed.”
“Flashlights don’t meet the elements of vandalism,” Long said.
Talbot said he would love to meet with BYU officials and that the event was not meant to antagonize the university. “This is the opportunity that BYU has to be our advocate or our obstacle,” he said. “This is us trying to bridge the gap between these two communities and sow loving unity and strength.”
He provided the Daily Universe with the following statement on behalf of the Color the Campus organization:
“We at Color the Campus invite the BYU Board of Trustees to follow the Apostolic Counsel of President M. Russell Ballard, ‘to listen to and understand what (their) LGBT siblings are feeling and experiencing.’ We invite the Board of Trustees to meet with LGBTQ+ BYU students to hear their stories, so they understand the effects their actions have on some of most marginalized & victimized students at CES schools.”