Supporters of a gay couple who say they
were detained by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' (the
Mormons) security guards over a kiss on the cheek protested Sunday
morning near the church-owned walkway where the incident occurred in
downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Matt Aune, 28, and his partner Derek
Jones, 25 say they were detained by church security guards and cited
by city police for trespassing.
The pair crossed the Main Street Plaza,
an easement that connects the Mormon Temple to other church sites
that belongs to the church, Thursday night holding hands as they
walked home from a concert. Near the edge of the plaza, Aune says he
stopped, hugged Jones and kissed him on the cheek.
The couple was cuffed and detained when
they protested against requests by the guards that they leave.
Guards told them public displays of affection are not allowed on the
The “kiss in” drew about 100 gay
and straight couples near the plaza entrance, where the couples held
hands and exchanged affectionate kisses as nearby church security
guards looked on. Couples wore paper hearts in solidarity.
“It should be OK to show your love
for someone else,” former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Deeda Seed,
who helped organize the protest, told the paper. “What makes us
essentially at our best as human beings is when we feel for someone
The men say they were detained by the
church because they are gay, and added that they have seen many
straight couples share affection on the plaza.
“They targeted us,” Aune told the
paper. “We weren't doing anything inappropriate or illegal, or
anything most people would consider inappropriate for any other
In a statement, church officials denied
discriminating against the couple, saying they were asked to leave as
any other couple would be. But when the paper asked what is
considered inappropriate behavior, spokeswoman Kim Farah refused to
Farah said the two men were detained
and the police were called because they “became argumentative,”
used profanity and refused to leave.
Aune admits he used profanity: “When
I was handcuffed, I was very pissed and I unleashed a flurry of
City police are expected to release
information on the incident Tuesday.
The Mormon Church has been under
intense criticism by gay rights advocates after its members, at the
request of church leaders, donated millions of dollars – and
thousands of volunteer hours – to the campaign to ban gay marriage
in California, Proposition 8.
The entire plaza became the private
property of the church in 2003 after a controversial land-swap deal
with the city, allowing the church to regulate inappropriate behavior
– from smoking to protesting – on the plaza.