Dozens of LGBTQ students illuminated a giant sign belonging to Mormon-affiliated Brigham Young University in the colors of the rainbow this week.
BYU, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has a 380-foot-tall “Y” sign on Y Mountain, overlooking the school’s home in Provo, Utah.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, 40 students carrying 76 flashlights climbed the mountain on March 4 and transformed the sign from its usual white into a dazzling array of colors resembling the LGBTQ Pride flag.
The bold move came exactly one year after BYU issued guidance to students instructing them that homosexuality was incompatible with its teachings.
In February 2020, BYU removed a passage banning “all physical intimacy that give[s] expression to homosexual feelings” from the school’s Honor Code in February 2020.
Its removal led to multiple LGBTQ students coming out or openly sharing affection with one another on campus, believing the school finally accepted them.
However, on March 4, 2020, BYU reiterated that, while it had removed the anti-gay passage from its Honor Code, gay people are still considered “not compatible” with the university’s “principles.”
Gay BYU student Bradley Talbot, who organized the light display, told the Salt Lake Tribune that it wasn’t a protest, but rather a message to school administrators.
“We’re here,” he said. “And we’re part of this institution. We should have a place at the Y.”
Talbot said that BYU’s decision to reiterate its opposition to same-sex sexual relations “felt like a betrayal for a lot of LGBTQ students.”
“It was traumatic,” he continued. “So this was a day for us to reclaim that and try to turn it into something positive.”
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The lighting of the sign, which lasted for an hour, forced BYU to issue a statement clarifying that it hadn’t sanctioned the rainbow display.
“BYU did not authorize the lighting of the Y tonight,” the university said on social media. “The Y is BYU property and any form of public expression on university property requires prior approval.”
However, it’s unclear if the university plans to take action against any of the students involved. Per the Tribune, BYU had to allow public access to the trail the “Y” is sited on when it purchased the land.
“It’s a display. We’re not vandalizing anything,” Talbot said. “We’re not breaking the law.”
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