LGBT groups: Admitting BYU would be 'inconsistent' with Big 12 values

Several LGBT advocacy groups are urging the Big 12 not to admit BYU as an expansion school, according to a letter obtained by ESPN.com.

The news was first reported by FOX Sports.

In the letter, dated Aug. 8, Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization that raises LGBT awareness in sports, sent a letter to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby to express its concerns about the Big 12 candidacy of BYU, which is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"As organizations committed to ending homophobia, biphobia and transphobia both on and off the field of play, we are deeply troubled by this possibility," the letter reads. "We feel it would be extremely problematic to include BYU in your conference expansion."

Athlete Ally suggests adding BYU "would be inconsistent with Big 12 membership values."

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe issued a statement Tuesday on Twitter, saying the school welcomes "LGBT players, coaches and fans."

Ashland Johnson, a spokesperson for Athlete Ally, told ESPN that the letter was also sent to 10 Big 12 university presidents, faculty reps and senior women's advisors.

Johnson said the letter was prompted by the language in BYU's honor code and not a specific incident of discrimination.

"Currently, the Big 12 as a conference is overwhelmingly LGBT-inclusive," the letter reads. "BYU, conversely, actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff. It provides no protections for LGBT students. In fact, through its policies, BYU is very clear about its intent to discriminate against openly LGBT students, with sanctions that can include suspension or dismissal for being openly LGBT or in a same-sex relationship."

The Athlete Ally letter also states that "LGBT coaches, players and fans who attend and/or compete at any Big 12 events hosted at BYU would be subject to discrimination since BYU remains exempt from Utah's LGBT nondiscrimination law. Moreover, any student-athlete who identifies as LGBT, and subsequently selects BYU due to its Big 12 membership, would be subjected to BYU's unabashed discrimination."

Athlete Ally also accused BYU of not being compliant with Title IX, as "an institution that openly discriminates against transgender students."

The letter is co-signed by two dozen other like advocacy groups.

Johnson said Athlete Ally had not heard back from Bowlsby as of Monday evening.

In a statement to FOX Sports, BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins said, "BYU welcomes as full members of the university community all whose conduct meets university standards. We are very clear and open about our honor code, which all students understand and commit to when they apply for admission. One's stated sexual orientation is not an issue."