LGBT groups ask Big 12 Conference to bar BYU football

Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Photo: Gephardt Daily

PROVO, Utah, Aug. 8, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — A coalition of 25 LGBT advocacy groups is urging the Big 12 Conference officials not to admit Brigham Young University to the league, saying the school discriminates against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

A letter from Athlete Ally (a non-profit group of LGBTQ activists for sports league) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which was signed by an additional 23 advocacy groups, was released Monday.

“BYU actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff,” reads the letter, which was addressed to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “It provides no protections for LGBT students. In fact, through its policies, BYU is very clear about its intent to discriminate against openly LGBT students, with sanctions that can include suspension or dismissal for being openly LGBT or in a same-sex relationship.”

“Given BYU’s homophobic, biphobic and transphobic policies and practices, BYU should not be rewarded with Big 12 membership,” the letter continues. “Any student-athlete who identifies as LGBT, and subsequently selects BYU due to its Big 12 membership, would be subjected to BYU’s unabashed discrimination. This would endanger the student-athlete’s NCAA eligibility and mental health.”

Brigham Young University is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and regulations that reflect the rules of the faith. BYU students and employees are required to follow the school’s Honor Code, which does not bar homosexuality but does prohibit acting on same-sex attraction. Breaking the honor code can be punished by expulsion or being fired.

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The honor code also bars acting on heterosexual feelings outside of marriage, but the LDS Church does not recognize marriages between same-sex partners, effectively barring sexual relationships between legally married same-sex partners as well.

“Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code,” the Honor Code states, in part. “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.”

The Big 12’s handbook addresses the issue of discrimination. It’s policy states, in part:

“It is the obligation of each Member Institution to refrain from discrimination prohibited by federal and state law, and to demonstrate a commitment to fair and equitable treatment of all student-athletes and athletics department personnel.”

BYU has long been considered a frontrunner for Big 12 expansion. Others expansion candidates include Connecticut, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston and Memphis.

Additional LGBT advocacy groups that signed the letter to the Big 12 commission include GLAAD, the National Organization for Women, Equality North Carolina and Campus Pride.

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