BYU has been mentioned by many an observer as a front-runner for a revamped Big 12. If an advocacy coalition has its way, however, the LDS school will be on the outside of expansion looking in.
According to FOXSports.com‘s Stewart Mandel, “[a] coalition of national LGBT advocacy groups is urging the Big 12 not to admit BYU as a new member.” Per a letter obtained by Mandel and addressed to commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the groups are pushing back against what they claim is “active and [open]” discrimination against the LGBT community by the university.
It’s expected that each member’s president/chancellor has/will receive a copy of the letter as well.
From Mandel’s report:
On Monday, Athlete Ally, a non-profit that conducts LGBT awareness campaigns for sports leagues, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sent a letter to Big 12 administrators detailing what they believe are discriminatory policies by BYU, a religious institution owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
In the letter addressed to commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the authors write in part: “BYU … actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff. It provides no protections for LGBT students … Given BYU’s homophobic, biphobic and transphobic policies and practices, BYU should not be rewarded with Big 12 membership.”
BYU students and faculty are expected to follow the school’s Honor Code, which includes a section addressing “Homosexual Behavior.” While “same-gender attraction” is not itself an Honor Code violation, taking part in a same-sex relationship is.
“Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code,” it reads. “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.”
An interpretation of that honor code would lead one to conclude that openly-gay student-athletes in general and football players specifically would not be permitted to compete at BYU. “We are very clear and open about our honor code, which all students understand and commit to when they apply for admission,” a spokesperson stated to Mandel.
An openly-gay former Big 12 student-athlete, ex-Oklahoma pole-vaulter Tanner Williams, very staunchly stated to Mandel that he would not have traveled to BYU for a meet if the Mormon school was a member of the conference during his days as a collegiate competitor.
Baylor, one of two current Big 12 members with deep religious ties, has recently changed language in its student code of conduct policy as it relates to “homosexual acts.” TCU, the other religious university in the conference, has what’s described as a “non-discrimination statement that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”
In its bid to go from football-independent to Big 12 member in, possibly, all sports, BYU already has the “no games on Sunday” hurdle to clear. Whether this, combined with that, is deemed insurmountable in the Big 12’s expansion process remains to be seen.