The Baylor Bears enter this year’s men’s basketball NCAA tournament as the defending champions and one of the overall top seeds.
They also own the shameful title as the most anti-LGBTQ school in the field. Campus Pride, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a safer environment for LGBTQ students on college campuses, put Baylor on its “Shame List,” which identifies the “absolute worst, most unsafe campuses for LGBTQ youth.”
To land on this inglorious list, Campus Pride says schools must “openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth and/or have requested Title IX exemptions to perpetuate the harms of religion-based bigotry.”
Baylor checks those boxes. For years, the conservative Baptist university has refused to officially recognize LGBTQ groups on campus, prompting students to join a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education challenging the exemptions from federal anti-discrimination measures that it affords schools with religious affiliations.
Amidst sustained uproar, Baylor narrowly relented last spring when it passed a noncommittal resolution allowing university leaders to explore the possibility of approving an LGBTQ group — as long as it doesn’t spread ideas about sexuality that are “contrary to biblical teaching.”
Considering Baylor’s official school policy describes marriage as a union between a man and a woman, that doesn’t seem very promising. Nevertheless, students are working this semester on a charter application for an LGBTQ group. Best of luck to them.
Homosexuality has long been a taboo topic at Baylor. Brittney Griner, who led the Baylor women’s team to the 2012 NCAA Championship, has previously said former coach Kim Mulkey forbid her from publicizing her sexual orientation.
On the women’s side, Brigham Young University enters the field as one of the No. 6 seeds, bringing its atavistic honor code with it. The honor code forbids everything from caffeine consumption to sexual activity, including relations between partners of the same sex.
Two years ago, BYU stripped a rule banning behavior that reflects “homosexual feelings,” leading some to think the private university owned by the Mormon Church was undergoing its own sort of social Glasnost and Perestroika. But the optimism was for naught: BYU eventually confirmed its ban on same-sex relationships.
Runner Emma Gee, the only out athlete at BYU, wrote an essay for Outsports about her experiences in 2019. She called her coming out process “difficult, confusing, awful, heartbreaking and wonderfully liberating.”
Gee credited her teammates for creating her “safe space in an unsafe environment.”
With that in mind, it’s important to note that Baylor’s and BYU’s basketball players didn’t put their schools’ bigoted policies in place. They may not even support them. Generation Z, after all, is the most non-straight generation in history.
But schools use March Madness as a powerful marketing tool. If Baylor and BYU advance, viewers will be inundated with serene shots of their campuses and images of euphoric students cheering their teams on.
It’s only right to provide the full story.