Christian university allows same-sex couples to compete in ballroom dancing competition after backlash
The university, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has historically been very conservative
A traditionally conservative college will, for the first time, be allowing same-sex couples to participate in its reputed annual ballroom dancing competitions, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.
The Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, has hosted the US National Amateur Dancesport Championships since 1997 and has seen thousands of couples from across the country travel to compete each year. However, until this year, the college had adhered to its strict rules that did not allow for same-sex couples to participate in the competition. The rule was not a surprising one to those who know the history of BYU, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has historically been very conservative.
In fact, it has an honor code that forbids its students from having gay relationships, as well as "all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings." It even goes so far as to ban people of the same sex from practicing together for these dances.
The college was also a staunch proponent of ballroom dancing's aristocratic roots that dictated that the dance involved a man and a lady, with the former playing the role of the lead while the latter did everything to follow.
This recent change was not without resistance. Last September, the National Dance Council of America (NDCA), which sanctions the BYU competition, had, under the threat of a lawsuit, revised its policy so "same-sex/gender-neutral couples will be able to compete with opposite-sex couples in all dance genres included in championships, competitions, and events sanctioned by the NDCA."
The BYU management, however, remained bullish. As registrations began in November, to circumvent the policy change, the university made a surprise announcement that it would forgo having the council officially sanction the event and would instead host it just as "an all-amateur event" for collegiate and studio competitors.
They released a statement that read, "A couple in the traditional ballroom dance genre is defined as a male and a female, with the male dancing the part of the lead and the female dancing the part of the follow."
The move did not sit well with potential competitors, many of whom send angry emails about the university blatantly disregarding the rules and still getting to host.
The straw that arguably broke the camel's back came in the form of public condemnation by Katerina Lu and her husband Xingmin Lu, who are US senior champions and have won multiple titles at BYU. Taking to Facebook, Katerina said that while she was not gay, the university's decision went against her "personal beliefs and core values." She later told the Tribune, "If you don't let everybody who has the right to dance, then you're not truly a championship. You should be able to dance no matter your background, color, or sexual orientation."
A few days later, the NDCA wrote in a one-sentence statement on its website that the decision had been reversed, that the event would be officially sanctioned, and that BYU would abide by the rules. While that is a step in the correct direction, BYU's standards for its students have not changed. Students who attend classes at the university will still not be able to dance in same-sex partnerships.