Last edited: December 08, 2004

Brigham Young University Suspends Gay Students

DataLounge, March 30, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY, Ut. — Richard "Ricky" Escoto, a gay Mormon and 21-year-old student, was suspended by Brigham Young University officials for suspected honor code violations related to allegations of gay conduct, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

The Tribune quotes Escoto as saying that while the school does not prohibit closeted gays or lesbians from attending classes, even talking about same-sex sexual orientation or associating with other gay men or lesbians risks disciplinary action from school officials.

BYU, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, listed four reasons for suspending Escoto, a sophomore from California: that he received gifts from other men, visited gay-oriented Internet Web sites and chat rooms on his home computer, was seen on "dates" with at least three different men and was found kissing another man in his apartment.

Escoto denies the allegations. He says the school has "no proof of anything," and is basing the entirety of its actions on false testimony supplied by his "bigoted" roommates. He says the charges against him were made shortly after he confided his "issues with same-sex attraction" to a roommate with whom he was particularly close.

Word quickly spread among Escoto’s other roommates who, he says, then turned him in to BYU’s Honor Code Office. The BYU Code, which must be signed by students upon entry into the university, contains "homosexual conduct" in a list of sexual conduct prohibitions. The Tribune says the reference to homosexuality was added only recently, in the late 1990s.

Carri Jenkins, a BYU spokeswoman, told The Tribune that less than 2 to 3 percent of BYU’s 30,000 students are referred to the Honor Code Office annually, most for minor dress code violations. She declined to say how many referrals are related to gay conduct violations or how many students, like Escoto, are suspended as a result.

Contrary to what some students believe, Jenkins said, "There are no sting operations. No one is going out and asking students their sexual orientation. It’s not something they ask when they apply to the university."

News stories in the ‘60s and ‘70s reported that campus police would perform spot checks at gay dance clubs for license plates of BYU students or would pose as gay men and solicit sexual favors from male students.

Another student, Matthew Grierson, 21, was told in March to either withdraw from the university or face a two-semester suspension based on similar conduct violations. He was reprimanded for allegedly kissing a man on campus and holding his hand at a mall off-campus but admitted only to the hand-holding. Grierson, who was on a full academic scholarship at BYU, withdrew.

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