SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: April 17, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Provo, Utah) — Three weeks after the Soulforce Equality Ride visited the campus to deliver a list of community concerns for the wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, officials at Brigham Young University have amended the section of the student honor code that deals with sexual orientation.
The revised code states that "Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or orientation and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. . . . One’s stated sexual orientation is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity."
The previous code identified "any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature" as violations of the honor code.
In a letter to Soulforce, Will Carson, Policy and Strategy Coordinator for Equality Utah, acknowledged the Equality Ride’s role in the change: "As a result of your visit, several students contacted the administration of BYU to ask about the University’s Honor Code. Because of those questions and concerns, BYU has changed the code in significant ways."
"BYU’s policy can now be summarized as ‘Do ask, do tell, don’t do.’" Carson continued.
"This is an important step in the path toward equal rights because it is only through dialogue that we can eliminate fear and achieve a fair and just Utah. Thank you for helping to open the door a bit further."
On March 22, Mormon Equality Rider Kourt Osborn, and his mother, Karel Allen, were arrested for trespassing on the BYU campus as they attempted to deliver a list of community concerns regarding university policies and the campus climate for LGBT students. Equality Riders and Utah community members marched around the perimeter of the campus for six hours to dramatize the oppressive silence that surrounds LGBT students at BYU.
News of BYU’s policy changes reached the Riders on the westbound bus after a day of protest and attempted dialogue at the BYU Idaho campus in Rexburg, Idaho.
"While we are not directly responsible for communication with the Administration, as we were prohibited from speaking with the administration, I do believe that the students who were a part of those conversations were galvanized by the Equality Ride visits in 2006 and 2007," said Haven Herrin, Co-director of the westbound bus.
The Equality Riders are fifty young adults on a two-month bus tour to raise awareness about religion-based discrimination against LGBT students at Christian colleges across the nation. They are traveling on two buses and covering two separate routes. This is the second year of the Equality Ride, which visited BYU and seventeen other schools in spring 2006.
The revised policy states that "homosexual behavior or advocacy of homosexual behavior are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings. Advocacy includes seeking to influence others to engage in homosexual behavior or promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable."
"The energy around this issue and the pressure provided by our presence were certainly a factor in changing this policy from being the worst in the nation to being on par with most other anti-gay schools," says Herrin.
Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. For more information go to www.soulforce.org or www.equalityride.com.