BYU’s Iconic Sign Got an Hour-Long Rainbow Makeover

A year after BYU coolly said that homosexual behavior is not compatible with Mormonism, LGBTQ+ students there went and told it on the mountaintop.

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.

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.

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