Iowa State students critical of Big 12 addition of BYU over LGBTQ discrimination

Danielle Gehr
Ames Tribune
Brigham Young fans cheer during a game against Arizona at Allegiant Stadium.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect while Brigham Young University removed wording that banned "homosexual behaviors" from their honor code, school leaders later clarified displays of "same-sex romantic behavior" would still be against the code. Additionally, references have been changed to the proper name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Five years ago, Iowa State University student backlash followed when the Big 12 Conference contemplated the addition of Brigham Young University, which students report continues to discriminate against 

Now, Iowa State's Student Government is condemning a lack of student input before a recent Big 12 vote to invite BYU, a private college in Provo, Utah.

The Big 12, of which Iowa State is a member, announced Sept. 10 plans to invite BYU, as well as the University of Houston, the University of Central Florida and the University of Cincinnati, into the conference. This comes after the Southeastern Conference invited current Big 12 teams Texas and Oklahoma to join that league by 2025, possibly sooner. 

The Student Government resolution says the Big 12 Conference and Iowa State University failed to gather student input before voting on the expansion. 

"Specifically, members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been left completely shut out by the Administration’s choice to allow Brigham Young University into the Conference," the resolution states. "Because of previous feedback given by Student Government Senate in 2016, the Administration should have expected that BYU’s admission to the Big XII would have a negative impact on LGBTQIA+ students."

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A statement from Iowa State University in response to the Student Government resolution said all four universities invited to join the Big 12 were fully vetted and are in good standing with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. 

“University and athletic department leaders are aware of the concerns expressed in the resolution and appreciate members of ISU’s Student Government sharing their feedback," the statement said. 

Last year, the university sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints removed a portion of its student conduct code banning all acts of intimacy that give "expression of homosexual feelings," according to the Salt Lake Tribune. 

However, director of the Honor Code Office Kevin Utt later said "any same-sex romantic behavior" would violate the honor code. 

"Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage, and is therefore not compatible with the principles of the Honor Code," Elder Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of the Church Educational System, which oversees BYU, wrote in a statement to NBC News. 

Students have been allowed to openly identify as gay since 2007 but could not enter same-sex relationships. 

Discussions of Big 12 expansion in 2016, which included BYU, spurred disapproval from advocacy groups across the country.

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At the time, 25 LGBTQ organizations signed a letter to the Big 12 commissioner, asking BYU be excluded from the league. Iowa State's student senate joined the group of dissenting voices after passing a resolution one month later. 

The conference ultimately decided not to expand until the recent vote. 

"This institution (BYU) has a clear history of homophobia that continues to persist to this day," the Iowa State resolution states. "In the future, Student Government demands that the Administration at Iowa State be more considerate of student opinion, makes an effort to allow for student input on University matters."

Danielle Gehr is a politics and government reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached by email at dgehr@gannett.com, phone at (515) 663-6925 or on Twitter at @Dani_Gehr.