by Joel McDonald
Update: Since this post was published, a clarifying letter was released that attempts to continue to enforce prohibitions of any same-sex romantic behavior. Please see Unwritten rules can cause a lot of harm at BYU and Not so fast: Honor code changes not so black and white for a more up-to-date review of changes to the Honor Code and response to this clarifying letter. You can also check out Two Degrees off Center: A Peculiar People for a great history of protests at BYU and one take and personal response to the Honor Code update and clarification.
Three months ago to the day, I published an article on the Affirmation blog spotlighting the clear discrimination in Brigham Young University’s honor code which treated expressions of affection between same-sex couples and straight couples differently. At that time, BYU’s honor code prohibited “not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.” With this broad language, I asked if hugs, hand holding, kissing, or cuddling were okay. These activities were not prohibited for straight couples, which was discriminatory. In closing the piece, I suggested that BYU could maintain their standards, but in doing so incorporate what Dallin H. Oaks said when the Church moved away from treating same-sex marriage as apostasy, and create an honor code where “immoral conduct in heterosexual and homosexual relationship[s] will be treated in the same way.”
Coinciding with the release today by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of their new General Handbook, BYU released an updated honor code, removing all references to homosexuals or same-sex relationships. Instead, the code now calls for students to, “Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman.”
I couldn’t be more thrilled that the Church Educational System Honor Code now treats non-sexual activities of same-sex and straight couples the same. This change not only reflects the current policy of the Church, but was also supported by nearly 25,000 signers of an online petition calling for honor code reforms. Everyone who made their voices heard should be proud to have played an important role in making BYU and other parts of the Church’s educational system a better place for all.