Mormon-owned Brigham-Young University has long held the controversial distinction of being a rare US university that disallowed same-sex couples from having any public displays of affection.
Any hugging, kissing or hand-holding between a same-sex couple could be investigated by the Honor Code Office, and the couple could face punishment at school or at their church.
However, on Friday, BYU quietly changed their unpopular policy and removed “homosexual behavior” from the list of honor code violations.
There was no grand announcement, no statement on the importance of equal treatment of all people, nor any apology by the university for the policy they kept for so long.
University Cautions Students Celebrating ‘Win’
“The Honor Code Office will handle questions that arise on a case by case basis,” BYU’s official Twitter statement reads.
“For example, since dating means different things to different people, the Honor Code Office will work with students individually.”
In practice, this means that gay students will be able to kiss, hold hands and be seen with their partners without fearing repercussions. Everyone from undergrads to grad students in masters programs will be free to date for “fun and companionship.” But if they are dating someone of the same sex with the intent of marrying, they should report themselves to the honor board.
In the Mormon faith, same-sex marriage is considered a “serious transgression,” and any sexual acts outside of a heterosexual marriage are condemned by the church.
BYU Students Wonder What This Means
The infamously conservative university stealthily changing its rules on homosexuality has left many students confused. Does this mean LGBTQIA+ individuals are free to hold hands with or hug their significant others without fear of university blowback?
Notably, the honor code at BYU was rather vague: while homosexuality wasn’t explicitly banned, any public displays of affection among a same-sex couple would violate the honor code.
Others are expressing cautious optimism that this could be the start of a new chapter for the school.
“I feel free and cared for by the university for the first time in a long time,” an undergraduate named Franchesca Lopez told reporters. “I really hope they don’t disappoint me again.”