Just months after Jerry Falwell Jr. got booted from Liberty University, another religious college is in the news to remind us all that religion-affiliated higher education is still occasionally teaching nonsense. This time, it’s Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah (once home of Gary Gilmore).
A year after the country’s largest religious institution quietly removed all explicit bans on same-sex sexual relations from the school’s student Honor Code—and its subsequent clarification that “same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code”—a group of LGBTQ+ student members in the Color the Campus group secretly lit up the Y in the BYU sign in rainbow colors for one hour.
— Color The Campus (@colorthecampus) March 5, 2021
For those not in the Mormon community—or in Provo—the concrete mountaintop BYU sign is a big deal, an emblem of the university that can be seen for miles. And so the hour-long light display was not just a symbolic gesture; the act of defiance for what students took as an abrupt policy reversal was a highly visible one.
“That day felt like a betrayal for a lot of LGBTQ students,” senior Bradley Talbot, who organized the event, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It was traumatic. So this was a day for us to reclaim that and try to turn it into something positive.”
Talbot and around 40 other students and allies planned the light show for a week in advance, assigning colored flashlights and spots around the letter. When the time came, they aimed a total of 76 beams at the pre-assigned areas.
BYU quickly reassured the homophobes that it had not authorized the 60-minutes of gay pride in a tweet. But though the students were greeted by police cars on their descent from the mountaintop—and, distressingly, allies playing “I Kissed a Girl” in misguided solidarity—they were not stopped.
This marks a resumption of the protests led by LGBTQ+ students when the initial clarification was issued a year ago. Sit-ins were quickly canceled as the pandemic spread and led to shutdowns. But though the students have laid low since then for their safety, they came roaring back on March 4 to remind school officials that, well, they’re there, they’re queer, and BYU had better start supporting it.