Mormon students throw defiant Pride at staunchly anti-LGBT+ university

BYU Pride

An anonymous group of Brigham Young University (BYU) students has organised the Mormon university’s first, unofficial Pride event despite the school’s historically anti-LGBT+ stance.

More than 1,000 people gathered at Joaquin Park in Provo, Utah, on Monday (28 June) to support the LGBT+ event, according to them. The group included current and former students, members of the LGBT+ community in the surrounding area, allies and even some furry friends.

Marchers waved kaleidoscope Pride flags and signs declaring “Love is the answer”, “You are loved” and “Hate has no home here”. Many danced together with celebratory music during the event, and there was even a “Free Britney” banner at the march.

The Pride march was not officially sponsored by BYU, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Instead, it was organised by a completely anonymous group online called BYU Pride. The group “aims to empower students to celebrate progress made by the LGBTQ+ community at BYU and to advocate for change through collaborative activism”, according to its Instagram account.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by BYU Pride (@byupride)

One of the event organisers, named Kendra, told The Salt Lake Tribune that she and others banded together to start the Instagram page and event to show their support for the LGBT+ community in the area.

But she said she never expected the huge turnout of people who showed up at the BYU Pride event.

“We are here [in Provo and BYU], and we are proud to be here to show support for people that are in a hard place and a weird place with their sexuality,” Kendra explained.

Stacey Harkey, a speaker at BYU Pride and graduate of the university, told them it was an “absolutely exhilarating experience” to see so many people showing their pride and support for LGBT+ people.

“I expected there to be far less people, and when I arrived to countless masses of supportive individuals, it gave me so much hope for the future of the queer community,” Harkey said.

“I worry about the queer kids and young adults growing up in intensely religious communities, but seeing that turnout let me know things are changing and it’ll be different for them.”

Sources told them that the event organisers wished to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation from administrators.

LGBT+ students have experienced a range of mistreatment at BYU

Students can be expelled for not adhering to the university’s strict honour code. In 2007, BYU changed the code to allow students to openly identify as gay.

However, they have long been banned from being in same-sex relationships. Until last year, the honour code specifically prohibited “homosexual behaviour”. But BYU later clarified its principles against same-sex relationships “remain the same”.

In May, a professor at BYU’s religion department faced staunch backlash after he used a Mormon term associated with an anti-Christ to described a gay student on Twitter.

Hank Smith, an assistant teaching professor, labelled the LGBT+ student as “Korihor”, who is a false prophet and anti-Christ in the Book of Mormon. He later deleted the controversial tweet and apologised, saying his response was “unjustified and unfair”.