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Ladd Egan, KSL TV

BYU attempts to clarify removal of 'homosexual behavior' section from Honor Code

By Liesl Nielsen, KSL.com | Updated - Feb. 20, 2020 at 11:16 a.m. | Posted - Feb. 19, 2020 at 7:40 p.m.



PROVO — Brigham Young University has attempted to clarify changes made to the Honor Code — and what those changes mean for LGBT students — after the school removed the section on "homosexual behavior" from the university's code of conduct.

The school, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, updated its Honor Code on Wednesday in conjunction with a new handbook released by the church the same day.

The church's new handbook, which offers guidelines for church leaders, takes a more adaptable and "ministerial" approach to administrative procedures. The update to the Honor Code was made in an effort to "be in alignment with the doctrine and policies of the church," a news release from the school reads.

However, the school later sent a tweet to clarify the changes after students on social media posted their conclusions of what the change meant.

As part of the code's update, the school removed the section on "homosexual behavior," which previously stated that "homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code." While "same-gender attraction" is not an Honor Code violation, all forms of physical intimacy "that give expression to homosexual feelings" are, the old code read.

The Honor Code now simply requires students to abstain "from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman," among other requirements that existed before the change.

Not long after the update was pushed online, BYU students took to social media wondering if dating members of the same sex is now no longer a violation of the Honor Code since the code only details "sexual relations" outside a marriage between a man and woman.

"Hey just wanted to let people know that we called the (Honor Code Office) and the official words were 'living a chaste and virtuous life means as long as you don't have sexual relations unless married to the opposite sex, it would not fall under honor code,'" said Twitter user emma lee.

"I'm going to the honor code office as soon as I get out of class to make sure, but several people have confirmed that gay students can now date and it is not against the honor code," said Twitter user Franchesca, later tweeting that, "It is confirmed. Gay dating is okay, kissing and hand holding from the mouth of an (Honor Code Office) counselor. Featuring my first gay kiss."

Pictures with a group of happy students outside the Honor Code Office, as well as a picture of two women kissing, accompanied the tweet.

The school tweeted later in the day, however, saying there may have been some miscommunication as to what the Honor Code changes mean.

"Even though we have removed the more prescriptive language, the principles of the Honor Code remain the same," the tweet reads. "The Honor Code Office will handle questions that arise on a case by case basis. For example, since dating means different things to different people, the Honor Code Office will work with students individually."

In response to KSL.com's request for comment on students' social media posts, Carri Jenkins, a BYU spokeswoman, said, "as we have explained this afternoon, there may have been some miscommunication as to what the Honor Code changes mean. We have clarified that the principles of the Honor Code remain the same. BYU Honor Code administrators have met with students throughout the day and welcome the opportunity to further discuss the updated Honor Code."

BYU's tweets also explained that "the updated Honor Code continues to be a principle-based code that reflects the moral standards of the Church. It allows each campus to support and guide its students on an individual basis according to the principles outlined in the Honor Code."

Several responses to the university's tweets conveyed confusion about what the change means, some asking the university to "use your words! Tell us what it means!" or "correct any of the misinformation." The university has not responded to specific replies to its tweets.

Not long after the change gained traction on social media, however, a Twitter account called "SaveBYU" was created and has since tweeted out a mission to "take back our University and #saveBYU."

The account expresses disapproval with the way some students have interpreted the Honor Code and tweeted the pictures of the happy students in front of the Honor Code Office and the two women kissing with the caption, "Sorry, we just can't stand for this. #savebyu."

The individual or group behind the account also claims to have taken off a rainbow-colored hat placed on the statue of Brigham Young on campus and replaced it with "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" — a statement issued by the church in 1995 which defines the organization's official position on family, marriage, gender roles and sexuality.

The group or individual also claims to have spread copies of the proclamation across campus.

The account currently has 140 followers, as of Thursday morning.

This story will be updated if more information becomes available.

Liesl Nielsen

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