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LGBT students at BYU speak out about lack of inclusion

LGBT students at BYU speak out about lack of inclusion. (Photo: MGN)

PROVO, Utah (AP) — Four LGBT students at Mormon-owned Brigham Young University spoke to about 600 students about what it's like to reconcile their religious beliefs with sexual identities that don't fit within the religion's belief system.

Addison Jenkins, who spoke at the first LGBT campus forum last year, said the school took a step forward Thursday by hosting the panel, the Salt Lake Tribune reported .

"And the students who showed up did the right thing, too," Jenkins said.

Some students had stickers from the student-led support group Understanding Same Gender Attraction, which is not sanctioned by BYU and is not allowed to reserve meeting space on campus.

"LGBT and (same-sex-attracted) students don't only exist at the BYU, they belong at BYU," said Liza Holdaway, co-vice president of Understanding Same Gender Attraction.

Ben Schilaty, a master's student, said the university and church need to readjust language and teachings to be inclusive and understanding of the challenges members face.

Schilaty said that for a long time, he tried to be a "checklist Mormon."

"I felt imprisoned or trapped by the church's teachings," Schilaty said. "There were so many times I would have rather been dead and straight than alive and gay."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches same-sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is. The school's stringent Honor Code forbids "not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings."

Those who break the school's Honor Code are widely expected to be disciplined, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Those who uphold it say it's easy to feel ashamed or unworthy.

Schilaty said he gets most frustrated when the faith's leaders pressure young adherents to marry by saying those who don't are "selfish."

"Things like that are hurtful," Schilaty said. "My decision to not get married has nothing to do with selfishness."

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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