A Salt Lake City, Utah police report on
a gay kissing incident that occurred on Mormon Church property
appears to side with the detained gay couple.
Security guards for the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) cuffed and detained Matt
Aune, 28, and his partner Derek Jones, 25, on June 9, a Thursday, as
they walked across the Main Street Plaza, an easement that connects
the Mormon Temple to other church sites that belong to the church.
Police cited the pair for trespassing.
Mormon Church officials have insisted
the pair were detained for trespassing after the men refused to
leave, and both the church and the police have refused to specify the
behavior that prompted the incident. The report, released 5 days
after the incident, cites kissing and hugging as the “unwanted
behavior,” as Aune and Jones had claimed.
“[Security guard Walter] Nickel said
that he observed Matt and Derek kissing and hugging on their
property,” the report says.
The report conflicts with the church's
statement that the pair were not discriminated against because they
are gay. Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said the men were given a
warning about their behavior, like any other couple would be given.
But the report does not mention a warning, saying only that the guard
told the pair that “they need to leave [church] property for the
behavior and that [it] is unwanted,” and that the men were detained
and the police called when Jones refused the order.
Jones claimed during a television
interview that as he was being cuffed, one of the guards said, “It's
just gross, it's just wrong.”
The report also indicates the presence
of alcohol. “I could smell alcohol on Matt's [Aune] breath and he
[sic] speech was slightly slurred when he spoke to me,” police
officer Eric Moutsos said.
The incident prompted a “kiss-in”
protest Sunday attended by about 100 couples near the church plaza,
where gay and straight couples affectionately kissed and wore paper
hearts in solidarity. Organizers say they will stage a second
“kiss-in” this Sunday.
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.