A slew of LGBT groups are speaking out against BYU’s Big 12 candidacy.
According to Fox Sports, Athlete Ally, a nonprofit “focused on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports,” and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sent a letter to the Big 12 (addressed to commissioner Bob Bowlsby) imploring the league not to include BYU when it expands.
The conference announced it would pursue new members last month and could pursue two or four new members. BYU is one of multiple perceived favorites to land an invitation. But in their letter, which was co-signed by 23 other LGBT groups, Athlete Ally and the National Center for Lesbian Rights said BYU has discriminatory policies that should effectively prevent it from joining the Big 12.
The Provo, Utah-based school is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
In the letter addressed to commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the authors write in part: “BYU … actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff. It provides no protections for LGBT students … Given BYU’s homophobic, biphobic and transphobic policies and practices, BYU should not be rewarded with Big 12 membership.”
The letter is co-signed by 23 other national and regional advocacy groups, including GLAAD and National Organization for Women (NOW). In addition to Bowlsby, the conference’s 10 university presidents, athletic directors and other administrators were expected to be copied.
Here is the full letter, via ESPN’s Jake Trotter:
Here is a copy of the letter the LGBT advocacy group “Athlete Ally” sent to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby: pic.twitter.com/boMtENkfYN
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) August 9, 2016
BYU students and faculty are expected to follow the school’s Honor Code. The Honor Code includes everything from abstaining from alcohol, drug and tobacco use to “dress and grooming standards.” The Code also includes a section titled “Homosexual Behavior.”
Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. Members of the university community can remain in good Honor Code standing if they conduct their lives in a manner consistent with gospel principles and the Honor Code.
One’s stated same-gender attraction 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. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates 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.
A BYU spokesperson told Fox Sports in a statement that a person’s “stated sexual orientation is not an issue.”
“BYU welcomes as full members of the university community all whose conduct meets university standards. We are very clear and open about our honor code, which all students understand and commit to when they apply for admission,” the statement reads.
Ashland Johnson, director of policy and campaigns for Athlete’s Ally, told Fox that BYU’s policies “go against everything the Big 12 stands for.”
“Their member schools are very progressive. If they allow BYU into their conference, all of the LGBT student-athletes, coaches and fans who travel to BYU will not have any [discrimination] protections,” Johnson said.
Former Oklahoma pole-vaulter Tanner Williams, who is openly gay, told Fox he would not travel to compete at BYU.
The Big 12 currently has two religious institutions, Baylor (Baptist) and TCU (Disciples of Christ), as members. Until last year, Baylor had a reference to “homosexual acts” in its sexual misconduct policy. “Homosexual acts” was in a list of “Missuses of God’s gift.” TCU said in a “non-discrimination statement” that the school “prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, ethnic origin, disability, genetic information, covered veteran status, and any other basis protected by law.”
BYU has been an independent in football since 2011. It previously competed in the WAC and Mountain West. Other candidates for expansion include Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, UCF, USF, Memphis and Connecticut.
Adding a new member requires the approval at least eight of the league’s 10 presidents.
For more BYU news, visit CougarNation.com.
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