Mormon university tears up support for LGBTQ+ students already forced to live in the closet

The Mormon, anti-LGBTQ+ Brigham Young University

Utah’s Mormon-owned Brigham Young University (BYU) has been condemned for binning crucial support for “lonely, isolated” queer students.

RaYnbow Collective, a group which works to provide safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students on and near BYU’s campus, had provided 5,000 queer resource pamphlets to be included in welcome packs for new freshmen.

But this week, the group announced the documents – which included information about therapy, safe housing, scholarships, activities and events – had been pulled by the university, with many “thrown away”.

“This decision is disappointing and disheartening, especially when we consider our experiences as freshmen feeling lonely, isolated, and unsupported as queer students. Unfortunately, it follows a consistent pattern of BYU breaking its promises and agreements with LGBTQ+ students,” said RaYnbow Collective.

Brigham Young University has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ policies, in line with Mormon church beliefs.

The university has strict religious policies enshrined in its Honor Code, which students can be expelled for breaking. Students are required to “live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman”, and “same-sex romantic behaviour” is banned as it does not “lead to eternal marriage”.

John Valdez, the executive director of The OUT Foundation which supports LGBTQ+ alumni and current students of BYU, told PinkNews: “BYU’s policies are harmful to the emotional and intellectual development of queer students on campus.”

“Queer students are often othered and made to feel less than their heteronormative peers. Queer relationships are banned; if a student dares to explore a relationship, in what is normally considered to be an integral part of the college experience, they also risk losing their access to their education, on-campus jobs, and even housing.”

Valdez of OUT Foundation added: “Queer expression is not allowed on campus; protests surrounding homophobic policies, exploration of gender identity, and even queer-centric art have all been shut down by the university.”

In recent years, the LGBTQ+ community has worked hard to improve the situation for queer students enrolled at the university, but officials have pushed back time and time again.

In a statement, RaYnbow Collective said: “A unilateral decision was made against our contract to pull the items and throw them away.

“We are currently in conversations with BYU to figure out amends and how to move forward… It took hundreds of hours and over 50 volunteers to provide this packet and other resources.

Speaking to the Salt Lake Tribune, BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins confirmed the university had pulled the LGBTQ+ pamphlets, and claimed the decision had been made because the resources were provided by an outside group.

Instead, Jenkins said students should seek support from “the Office of Belonging and our counselling services” rather than from “outside entities” that “imply affiliation with or endorsement from the university”.