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Despite howling wind, more than 150 people gathered at Utah State University as advocates shone flashlights in a rainbow pattern on Old Main to support LGBTQ+ students at BYU. “This is in response to the rainbow Y that was put up, and we’re just trying to send our signal back down there,” said Cameron Moellendorf, LGBTQ+ intern for USU’s Inclusion Center. The event, organized by the USU Queer Student Alliance, was in response to BYU students hiking up to the hillside Y above Provo and using multicolored flashlights to shine a rainbow pattern on it. The BYU demonstration was done anonymously and gained widespread attention online, with many people interpreting it as criticism of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns BYU, and many sharing it as a show of support for BYU students. “We were just wanting to do a little QSA activity to show our support for our BYU family down there, and it turned into this, which is incredible,” Moellendorf said. “We couldn’t have imagined this many people coming.” The event began at 8 p.m. with free pizza donated by Lucky Slice, and the crowd stuck around past 8:30, when QSA members shone their flashlights on the base of Old Main. “I am so excited,” USU student Lydia Wallis said of the club-organized display. “I feel like that shows a lot of support and a lot of growth with our community and USU as a whole. They’re not afraid of outwardly showing their support, and that’s just awesome to see.” Coincidentally, a few miles away from the USU event on the same evening, a Ridgeline High student cut down a Pride flag on display in the school’s common area. Video of the incident went viral, and USU’s QSA helped promote a rally at Ridgeline the following day to show support for LGBTQ+ students. According to a member of Ridgeline’s Gay-Straight Alliance who wished to remain anonymous, the Pride flag was placed among flags of various nations for Ridgeline’s Diversity Week. Working with the school’s administration, according to the student, the GSA planned for the Pride flag to be in a central position and so an individual placed it over Cuba’s national flag with the intention to come back later with scissors and zip-ties to relocate Cuba’s flag. In the intervening school day hours, opposing groups of students flipped the Pride flag over the railing to hide and reveal it multiple hours, culminating in the student cutting the flag from the display and letting it fall to the floor. At Tuesday’s event, USU student Max Roberts held a rainbow Pride flag around his shoulders as he waited for QSA members to light up Old Main. “I’m here because I support my fellow LGBTQ+ community,” Roberts said, “including those down at BYU Provo who’ve been struggling for a long time to just get basic equality, be treated equally by their administration, by their faculty, by their fellow students.” Roberts said having grown up a University of Utah fan and now attending USU, he’s always seen BYU as something of a rival, but he wants to see the queer students there feel like they have a place at the table. “When I saw that (rainbow Y) at this school that represents a lot of very conservative values, a lot of things that have been obstacles for queer rights everywhere, and so to see that happen was awesome,” Roberts said. USU Gender & Sexuality Program Coordinator Macy Keith said her job keeps her in the loop on topics like gay rights at BYU, the rainbow Y, and even later when UofU wrapped its block “U” in the colors of the Progress Pride flag. “The U is really our leader in our region for this, kind of for all the student affairs things,” Keith said. “But we’re really happy to see that they’re also supporting their students, so we wanted to jump on board and do something, as well.” BYU’s student conduct rules are enforced by its Honor Code Office and formerly explicitly prohibited “homosexual behavior.” In February 2020, an Honor Code update removed that language, and some who noticed the change assumed it meant that the school would no longer enforce prohibitions on homosexual relationships or displays of affection. Some gay students even went public with gay relationships, believing that doing so would no longer lead to investigation by Honor Code Office and possible expulsion. After weeks of confusion over whether students would be disciplined for homosexual relationships, however, a general authority of the church clarified that although the ban’s language had been removed from the written Honor Code, it would still be enforce. “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage, and is therefore not compatible with the principles of the Honor Code,” Elder Paul V. Johnson wrote in a statement to students. A year after that controversy, advocates planned a “Color the Campus” campaign, encouraging people to wear rainbow colors at BYU. A counter-protest encouraged people to bring umbrellas, symbolizing the protection offered to conservative American values that the church’s “Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which states God has ordained marriage as between a man and a woman and that those binary genders are essential, eternal characteristics. As part of the Color the Campus movement, an anonymous group of people hiked up to the hillside Y and illuminated it in a rainbow pattern with multicolored flashlights. The highly visible demonstration spread quickly in traditional and social media. Shortly afterward, school spokesperson Carri Jenkins stated, “BYU did not authorize the lighting of the Y. It appears it was lit by individuals on the Y with colored lights. The Y is BYU property, and any form of public expression on university property requires prior approval. We intend to make certain that members of our campus community understand this.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has in recent decades softened its messaging surrounding gay, lesbian and bisexual attraction. An article entitled “Same-Sex Attraction” on the church’s official newsroom states “The Church does not take a position on the cause of same-sex attraction,” and “Feelings of same-sex attraction are not a sin,” citing statements from its apostles. “Those who experience same-sex attraction or identify as gay can fully participate in the Church,” the article adds, but there’s a caveat: The church’s “law of chastity” teaches that all sexual conduct outside of a lawful heterosexual marriage is a sin. Church members who break the law of chastity can be subject to church discipline or excommunication. Same-gender relationships are not valid for ordinances that church members believe allow individuals to enter the highest level of heaven, the only place in the afterlife where families are permitted to be together forever. “The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is,” Apostle M. Russel Ballard said to clarify the church’s distinction between “same-sex attraction” and “same-sex behavior” in a 2014 address. The church has defended its anti-gay-marriage stance on grounds of religious liberty, and a common defense of the BYU Honor Code is that students know that they’re agreeing to forego all sexual conduct outside of monogamous, straight marriages, as well as any homosexual romantic relationships whether there’s sex involved or not. The church has advocated for “reasonable” LGBTQ+ protections it doesn’t consider to inhibit religious freedom. In a May 2019 statement outlining its position, the church states it is “deeply concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious liberty and LGBT rights are poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion and preventing diverse Americans of good will from living together in respect and peace” and that protections for “the right of religious organizations and religious schools to establish faith-based employment and admissions standards” are necessary.

Despite howling wind, more than 150 people gathered at Utah State University as advocates shone flashlights in a rainbow pattern on Old Main to support LGBTQ+ students at BYU.

“This is in response to the rainbow Y that was put up, and we’re just trying to send our signal back down there,” said Cameron Moellendorf, LGBTQ+ intern for USU’s Inclusion Center.

The event, organized by the USU Queer Student Alliance, was in response to BYU students hiking up to the hillside Y above Provo and using multicolored flashlights to shine a rainbow pattern on it. The BYU demonstration was done anonymously and gained widespread attention online, with many people interpreting it as criticism of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns BYU, and many sharing it as a show of support for BYU students.

“We were just wanting to do a little QSA activity to show our support for our BYU family down there, and it turned into this, which is incredible,” Moellendorf said. “We couldn’t have imagined this many people coming.”

The event began at 8 p.m. with free pizza donated by Lucky Slice, and the crowd stuck around past 8:30, when QSA members shone their flashlights on the base of Old Main.

“I am so excited,” USU student Lydia Wallis said of the club-organized display. “I feel like that shows a lot of support and a lot of growth with our community and USU as a whole. They’re not afraid of outwardly showing their support, and that’s just awesome to see.”

Coincidentally, a few miles away from the USU event on the same evening, a Ridgeline High student cut down a Pride flag on display in the school’s common area.

Video of the incident went viral, and USU’s QSA helped promote a rally at Ridgeline the following day to show support for LGBTQ+ students. According to a member of Ridgeline’s Gay-Straight Alliance who wished to remain anonymous, the Pride flag was placed among flags of various nations for Ridgeline’s Diversity Week.

Working with the school’s administration, according to the student, the GSA planned for the Pride flag to be in a central position and so an individual placed it over Cuba’s national flag with the intention to come back later with scissors and zip-ties to relocate Cuba’s flag. In the intervening school day hours, opposing groups of students flipped the Pride flag over the railing to hide and reveal it multiple hours, culminating in the student cutting the flag from the display and letting it fall to the floor.

At Tuesday’s event, USU student Max Roberts held a rainbow Pride flag around his shoulders as he waited for QSA members to light up Old Main.

“I’m here because I support my fellow LGBTQ+ community,” Roberts said, “including those down at BYU Provo who’ve been struggling for a long time to just get basic equality, be treated equally by their administration, by their faculty, by their fellow students.”

Roberts said having grown up a University of Utah fan and now attending USU, he’s always seen BYU as something of a rival, but he wants to see the queer students there feel like they have a place at the table.

“When I saw that (rainbow Y) at this school that represents a lot of very conservative values, a lot of things that have been obstacles for queer rights everywhere, and so to see that happen was awesome,” Roberts said.

USU Gender & Sexuality Program Coordinator Macy Keith said her job keeps her in the loop on topics like gay rights at BYU, the rainbow Y, and even later when UofU wrapped its block “U” in the colors of the Progress Pride flag.

“The U is really our leader in our region for this, kind of for all the student affairs things,” Keith said. “But we’re really happy to see that they’re also supporting their students, so we wanted to jump on board and do something, as well.”

BYU’s student conduct rules are enforced by its Honor Code Office and formerly explicitly prohibited “homosexual behavior.” In February 2020, an Honor Code update removed that language, and some who noticed the change assumed it meant that the school would no longer enforce prohibitions on homosexual relationships or displays of affection. Some gay students even went public with gay relationships, believing that doing so would no longer lead to investigation by Honor Code Office and possible expulsion.

After weeks of confusion over whether students would be disciplined for homosexual relationships, however, a general authority of the church clarified that although the ban’s language had been removed from the written Honor Code, it would still be enforce.

“Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage, and is therefore not compatible with the principles of the Honor Code,” Elder Paul V. Johnson wrote in a statement to students.

A year after that controversy, advocates planned a “Color the Campus” campaign, encouraging people to wear rainbow colors at BYU. A counter-protest encouraged people to bring umbrellas, symbolizing the protection offered to conservative American values that the church’s “Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which states God has ordained marriage as between a man and a woman and that those binary genders are essential, eternal characteristics.

As part of the Color the Campus movement, an anonymous group of people hiked up to the hillside Y and illuminated it in a rainbow pattern with multicolored flashlights. The highly visible demonstration spread quickly in traditional and social media.

Shortly afterward, school spokesperson Carri Jenkins stated, “BYU did not authorize the lighting of the Y. It appears it was lit by individuals on the Y with colored lights. The Y is BYU property, and any form of public expression on university property requires prior approval. We intend to make certain that members of our campus community understand this.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has in recent decades softened its messaging surrounding gay, lesbian and bisexual attraction. An article entitled “Same-Sex Attraction” on the church’s official newsroom states “The Church does not take a position on the cause of same-sex attraction,” and “Feelings of same-sex attraction are not a sin,” citing statements from its apostles.

“Those who experience same-sex attraction or identify as gay can fully participate in the Church,” the article adds, but there’s a caveat: The church’s “law of chastity” teaches that all sexual conduct outside of a lawful heterosexual marriage is a sin. Church members who break the law of chastity can be subject to church discipline or excommunication. Same-gender relationships are not valid for ordinances that church members believe allow individuals to enter the highest level of heaven, the only place in the afterlife where families are permitted to be together forever.

“The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is,” Apostle M. Russel Ballard said to clarify the church’s distinction between “same-sex attraction” and “same-sex behavior” in a 2014 address.

The church has defended its anti-gay-marriage stance on grounds of religious liberty, and a common defense of the BYU Honor Code is that students know that they’re agreeing to forego all sexual conduct outside of monogamous, straight marriages, as well as any homosexual romantic relationships whether there’s sex involved or not.

The church has advocated for “reasonable” LGBTQ+ protections it doesn’t consider to inhibit religious freedom. In a May 2019 statement outlining its position, the church states it is “deeply concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious liberty and LGBT rights are poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion and preventing diverse Americans of good will from living together in respect and peace” and that protections for “the right of religious organizations and religious schools to establish faith-based employment and admissions standards” are necessary.

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