LGBTQ students at religious schools stage walkouts on National Coming Out Day

The Rainbow Flag, an international symbol of LGBT liberation and pride, flies beneath the American flag at the Stonewall National Monument on Oct. 11, 2017, in New York.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Students at religious schools across the country walked out of class Tuesday to demand widespread changes be made to how LGBTQ people are treated at religious universities and high schools.

Tuesday’s walkouts at more than 50 schools were organized by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) and the Black Menaces, a group of five Black students at Brigham Young University (BYU) whose viral TikTok videos show their mostly white peers often struggling to answer questions about race and identity.

Black Menaces tweeted that the walkouts began at around 2 p.m. Eastern.

“This is happening across the country right now. 50+ schools. Power is found here. #strikeoutqueerphobia,” the group said.

The walkouts coincide with National Coming Out Day, celebrated each year on Oct. 11, the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979.

In a tweet on Monday, the Black Menaces wrote that the walkouts were organized to end “legal discrimination” by religious institutions against LGBTQ students and staff.

“GenZ is done putting up with it,” wrote the group, which recently announced its intent to expand to other campuses.

In a video posted to the Black Menaces’ Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, a member of Understanding Sexuality, Gender, and Allyship (USGA), an unofficial LGBTQ student group on BYU’s campus, is seen leading a group of protesters in a chant of “Two, four, six, eight, stop exemptions, stop the hate!,” referring to Title IX exemptions that are granted to religious schools by the Department of Education (DOE).

Title IX, which prohibits educational institutions that receive government funding from discriminating based on sex, does not apply to colleges or universities controlled by a religious organization “to the extent that application of Title IX would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization,” according to DOE guidelines.

BYU, operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is one of 40 religious universities with students that are suing the Education Department for allowing them to sidestep protections guaranteed to LGBTQ students under Title IX.

Students in the class action lawsuit filed last year by REAP claim that religious exemptions to Title IX have created legal avenues for schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys have said that while the law will be defended in court, it is also under review by the DOE.

Nearly 200 religious colleges and universities including BYU were recently named to the nonprofit Campus Pride’s “Worst List,” an annual grouping of campuses considered risky for LGBTQ students to attend. Several schools on the list, including Yeshiva University and Seattle Pacific University, have faced legal challenges to campus policies that limit LGBTQ visibility on campus.

An online petition organized by REAP and the Black Menaces this month alleges that more than 100,000 LGBTQ students on religious campuses each year are “denied basic civil rights protections” because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The petition, which has collected close to 900 signatures, includes a letter template addressed to “Non-Affirming Taxpayer Funded Religious Universities” that lays out the demands of protesters participating in Tuesday’s walkout, including that Title IX religious exemptions cease to be used to target LGBTQ students.

“These demands reflect the needs and experiences of queer students across the United States and are the minimum that LGBTQIA+ individuals, especially members of the trans and BIPOC community, deserve,” the petition states. “Educational institutions must be accountable for treating their queer students and faculty with equality, safety, and respect.”

—Updated at 4 p.m.

Tags Brigham Young University Department of Education Department of Justice LGBTQ rights LGBTQ rights national coming out day Religious Exemption Accountability Project Religious schools tiktok Title IX Yeshiva University

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video