A group of LGBTQ+ students at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, lit up the school’s famed ‘Y’ with rainbow colors on Thursday. Students from the group Color the Campus said their one-hour action illuminating the letter in the foothills overlooking the university was part of a larger day-long effort to call for greater acceptance while also calling out church teachings and rules for student behavior on campus. The nation’s largest religious institution, BYU last year removed language specifically banning same-sex sexual relations between students from the school’s student Honor Code, but later clarified the practice was still incompatible with church doctrine and teachings.
“We’re here, and we’re part of this institution,” Bradley Talbot, a gay BYU student who organized the lighting of the Y, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We should have a place at the Y.”
BYU immediately issued a statement saying lighting of the Y was not authorized and that “any form of public expression on university property requires prior approval.”
Talbot and Color the Campus chose March 4 for the date of their action as it was the one-year anniversary of the school’s clarification about removal of language banning “homosexual behavior” from the student Honor Code. The school issued a statement clarifying that “same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.”
Many LGBTQ+ students had initially celebrated the removal of the language by coming out publicly, but felt shocked and betrayed when the school went back on what was seen by many as a tacit affirmation of queer students. Color The Campus used the event, which was a part of a day-long celebration titled Rainbow Day, to call for a more inclusive and supportive educational environment for all BYU students.
“This is our symbol of love and unity with @BYU,” Color The Campus tweeted, while inviting the school “to be our advocate and not our obstacle.”
The school’s response to the rainbow-lit Y drew the ire of Imagine Dragon’s frontman Dan Reynolds, who noted while the school may see the inclusively-colored letter as a form of “ vandalism,” he calls it “divine intervention.”
Reynolds, a long-time ally, recently donated his childhood Las Vegas home to Encircle, an LGBTQ+ support group which establishes support centers for LGBTQ+ youth struggling with acceptance, their spirituality, and other issues. The group already has homes in Provo, Salt Lake City, and St. George. A fourth home is under construction in Heber, and the home donated by Reynolds, valued at $1 million, will be the group’s first in Nevada. A practicing Mormon, Reynolds filmed the documentary Believer, which follows the singer as he explored the impact of the church’s beliefs on LGBTQ+ you.
One student turned the tables on the school’s administrators response to the lighting of the Y, asking a variation of the famed “what would Jesus do” question.
For now, the school has not indicated whether they intend to punish the students with disciplinary action or even expulsion, but some students are afraid and refused to use their full names when talking with the media. Others, like Color The Campus, said they are determined to remain in school and fight hate with love.
“Hate can be loud, but love is louder,” the group tweeted.