BBrigham Young University was in the news once again for its controversial policies in its honor code preventing homosexual behavior.
Two national nonprofits recently took down ads for BYU jobs due to others’ concerns that the private university’s requirements are “discriminatory,” arguing in part that the religious institution’s beliefs regarding the LGBTQ community, are “not a belief, It’s discrimination.”
To be clear, BYU’s honor code states: “One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”
Those loyal to the university have since shot off to news media and on social media claiming that BYU is being discriminated against for its religious beliefs, and that allies of LGBTQ population are hypocritical in not extending tolerance to religious communities.
Thus the tug-of-war in the ongoing battle of religious and gender discrimination and tolerance continues.
Is BYU legally and lawfully allowed as a private, religious university to set forth its own policies based on its definition of its faith? Yes. It is endowed with Constitutional rights and freedom to organize its members according to the tenets of the religion. It is able to reject students and faculty that do not align with its religious beliefs; likewise, other institutions have the right to cut ties with the university based on its stance on this social issue (and others) as has happened repeatedly in the past — not just this week.
Unfortunately, no federal law prevents discrimination in being refused a job based on sexual orientation, and it still can be a factor in employment in public and private sectors in many states.
However, that doesn’t mean that Utah hasn’t worked hard to increase protection when it comes to discrimination and sexual orientation. It wasn’t that long ago in 2015 when a new law was enacted banning discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Utah is among the top states in the nation for laws that protect LGBTQ residents from discrimination.
According to research by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in 2018, “... Americans are widely supportive of nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. Nearly seven in ten (69%) favor laws that would protect them from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.”
Another PRRI survey, “America’s Growing Support for Transgender Rights,” has demonstrated that a majority of Americans falsely believe that there are federal protections in place. “Clear majorities believe it is illegal at the federal level for a doctor or health care professional to refuse treatment (79%), for a business to fire or deny someone a job (67%), for a property owner to refuse to rent a house or apartment (60%), or for a business owner to refuse to provide products or services to someone (55%) because the individual is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.”
There is much ground to be gained on a federal, state and local level in terms of addressing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Amending civil rights laws and existing policies is where real change will be made in how future conversations like these play out. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a forceful advocate in the determination of future religious rights in defense of its policies, and understandably so. This requires those who disagree with sexual orientation discrimination to lobby and increase support for future federal protections as well.