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Honor code no longer discriminates between same-sex and straight couples

Brigham Young University BYU Rainbow Pride Flag

February 19, 2020

Brigham Young University BYU Rainbow Pride Flag

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.

This article was submitted by an Affirmation community member. The opinions expressed are wholly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Affirmation, our leadership, or our staff. Affirmation welcomes the submission of articles by community members in accordance with our mission, which includes promoting the understanding, acceptance, and self-determination of individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and our vision for Affirmation to be a refuge to land, heal, share, and be authentic.


  1. Mark on February 19, 2020 at 11:00 PM

    Supposedly now it is okay for say two gay students to hold hands or exchange a kiss while in public. Just don’t go dancing in the sheets when your alone.
    While it’s obvious to all that it still seems to be discrimination In condeming any sexual relations except between married men and women. I would say that in a good way it is a step in the right direction.
    However small and while still only granting approval for sexual relations between heterosexual married couples. However if you actually want to get technical, most dictionaries define sexual relations as being those acts which are part of the reproductive acts between two sex,s in reproduction. So technically where does that leave say, whatever two men while together, doing what ever, if the acts they do, do not lead to reproduction? I may not have stated this in the best way, but I hope some can see the idea of which I am trying to convey.
    Just presenting a differing viewpoint …

    • Deven on March 1, 2020 at 3:45 PM

      I agree with you Mark that this honor code change — while it is a good step in the right direction — does NOT represent a full elimination of discrimination between same-sex and straight couples as the title of this article suggests.

      Same-sex married students are definitely still discriminated against at BYU. My husband wishes to attend BYU, but because he is married to me he dares not even apply. At any point while attending there, the Honor Code police could cite him for violation of the honor code and expel him and withhold his credits simply because he is in a loving, committed, monogamous marriage with me.

      While I am happy with the changes they have made so far, more work needs to be done to truly eliminate discrimination at BYU between same-sex and straight couples.

  2. Sylvester on February 27, 2020 at 10:43 AM

    How does this decision affect acquiring a temple recommend? Will the students be denied one?

  3. Jeff on February 29, 2020 at 8:16 AM

    Mark I’m trying to understand what your saying. Are you saying that if two men or two women have sexual relations because it technically doesn’t lead to reproduction it doesn’t break the law if chasity? I would say use the Spirit as your guide not the biological guide. Mosiah 3:19. In my opinion they are breaking the law of chasity.

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