FILE - In this April 12, 2019, file photo, Sidney Draughon holds a sign as she takes part in a protest in Provo, Utah, against how the Brigham Young University Honor Code Office investigates and disciplines students. 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 college 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, Feb. 19, 2020. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

Mormon-owned BYU: Same-sex romantic behavior still banned

March 04, 2020 - 3:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Brigham Young University in Utah said Wednesday that “same-sex romantic behavior” is not allowed on campus, even under recent changes to its strict code of conduct that dropped a section banning any behavior that reflected “homosexual feelings."

The university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a letter online, saying it intended to clarify misinterpretation about the change to what is known as the “honor code." A college administrator wrote that the recent revision doesn't change the “moral standards” of the church or the faith's opposition to same-sex marriage.

The change made public in mid-February gave hope to LGBTQ students and their allies who felt the since-deleted section created an unfair double standard not imposed on heterosexual couples. Some gay and lesbian students thought they could now hold hands and kiss on campus, though BYU officials said questions would be dealt with “on a case-by-case basis.”

Wednesday's letter doesn't provide details about what romantic behaviors are and aren't allowed, but it seems to shut the door on the notion that gay and lesbian couples will be allowed to be more open on campus.

“Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the honor code,” wrote Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of the church education system.

When asked follow-up questions about what it meant, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins referred The Associated Press to a Q&A posted Wednesday written by Kevin Utt, director of the honor code office. In a section about whether same-sex couples can hold hands and kiss, it refers to an aforementioned line from Johnson and says, “Any same-sex romantic behavior is a violation of the principles of the honor code.”

The clarification was causing fury and heartbreak among LGBTQ students and allies, said former BYU student Addison Jenkins, a past president of a campus support group for gay and lesbian students. He called it “cruel” to unveil revisions to the code last month that gave LGBTQ students hope that the campus climate had changed, and then two weeks later issue this new letter that shows “anti-queer rules” remain.

“This says: We do not care and we are no longer embarrassed about not caring about queer people," Jenkins said.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church, teaches its members that being gay isn't a sin but engaging in same-sex intimacy is. The faith has tried to be more welcoming toward LGBTQ people over the last decade, while adhering to its doctrinal belief that marriage is reserved only for heterosexual couples.

An entire section in the BYU code that was dedicated to “homosexual behavior" was removed last month. The clause that upset people said, "All forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings" are prohibited. Students complained that it 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 common at other colleges, including drinking, beards and piercings. Students who attend the university in Provo, south of Salt Lake City, agree to adhere to the code, and nearly all are members of the church. 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.

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

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