Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports, along with several other outlets, is reporting that 25 national LGBT organizations are petitioning the Big 12 in an attempt to get the conference to drop BYU as a candidate for expansion.
Mandel reported that Athlete Ally, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, has submitted a letter to the Big 12 asking that BYU not be considered for conference expansion due to a lack of LGBT protections in their university policies.
This is reflected most clearly in BYU’s student Honor Code, which states, “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.”
The Honor Code stops short of saying that simply being of a same-gender-loving orientation is a violation, but that to physically act upon any sexual feelings that orientation may bring would be a violation.
While some may brush this off as petty or insignificant, this movement is anything but. LGBTQ equality and protections are a big topic on college campuses, and inclusion of a university that does not provide protections to all of its students may damage the reputation of the conference as a whole.
As @ralphDrussoAP just noted, Big 12 expansion will be determined by 10 university presidents -- and LGBT issues are important on campuses.— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) August 9, 2016
Of course, LGBTQ conversations are also happening at the state and federal levels, as we’ve seen with HB2 in North Carolina. Ultimately, these conversations are incredibly complex and nuanced, and are not ones that will (or should) quiet down any time soon.
Mandel notes that the Big 12 Handbook has a section on diversity.
The Big 12’s handbook includes a Policy on Diversity that reads in part: “It is the obligation of each Member Institution to refrain from discrimination prohibited by federal and state law, and to demonstrate a commitment to fair and equitable treatment of all student-athletes and athletics department personnel.”
A Big 12 spokesperson said Monday the policy applies to LGBT members.
This is yet another blow to BYU’s chances at finally being a member in a Power 5 conference, as it was recently reported that Texas favors Houston for conference expansion while Oklahoma favors Cincinnati, and that a compromise may be to take both of those schools over BYU.