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BYU students behind unofficial 'Y' lighting say it wasn't a protest

Posted at 4:15 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 22:40:11-05

PROVO, Utah — Several Brigham Young Univerisity students hiked one mile in the dark Thursday night to light up the school's iconic 'Y' above campus with rainbow flashlights. It was a show of support for the school's LGBTQ students and community.

The demonstration came exactly one year after BYU issued a letter clarifying the school's stance on same sex relationships.

"March 4 is a significant day because it is the anniversary of when a clarification letter was sent out by the church education system on some of the honor code changes," said Bradley Talbot, organizer of the 'Light the Y' demonstration and founder of 'Color the Campus,' a LGBTQ student support group at BYU.

Just one month before the school released the letter, they removed a ban on "all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings" from the university's honor code.

"And that same sex romantic relationships were contrary to the principles in the honor code because it doesn't lead to eternal marriage," Talbot added.

The students involved made clear lighting the 'Y' was not a protest, but rather an opportunity for healing for the school's LGBTQ community.

"This entire year it's kind of weighed on me, and I felt like it's weighed on a lot of us that we haven't been able to heal from it," said Hayden Hall, a BYU student who participated in the demonstration. "So, I just felt like last night was a really great moment for us to come together and have moment of healing."

BYU declined an interview with FOX 13, and instead pointed to a statement posted on their Twitter Thursday night. The post reads, "BYU did not authorize the lighting of the Y tonight," following up with another tweet stating any form of public expression involving the 'Y' requires prior approval from the university.

"Being able to do this event and say everyone here is loved, everyone's welcome, you're wanted is really helping people, I think, to feel like they're welcome and they are wanted here on campus," said BYU sophomore Tessa Black.

BYU police were dispatched to the 'Y' trail head after receiving calls about the 'Y' being lit up in rainbow colors.

"Obviously the concern with the Y, because there has been vandalism up there in the past, was if there was some vandalism going on," said Lt. Jeff Long with the BYU Police Department.

He added the act is not considered vandalism because the students used flashlights and no direct damage was done to the 'Y'.

"There is no criminal charges, there was no criminal activity," Long said. "The officer just went up there to make sure that everything was okay."

"I don't wish to antagonize BYU," Talbot added. "I want to work with them and I hope that they understand that this demonstration with lighting the Y was a symbol of unity."

The students involved in the demonstration said they hope the 'Light the Y' demonstration will serve as a catalyst for future conversations about equity and inclusivity on the BYU campus.