Mormon Temple Square in Salt Lake City
A gay couple has been arrested for trespassing on Main Street Plaza in Salt Lake City, in front of the Mormon Temple, last Friday because they exchanged a kiss. The grounds are owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“They targeted us,” said Matt Aune. “We weren’t doing anything inappropriate or illegal, or anything most people would consider inappropriate for any other couple.”
The couple reacted to a security guard who asked them to leave by shouting profanities at him, which resulted in the police being called and the couple forcibly removed. In a written statement, church spokeswoman Kim Farah denied the two were singled out for being gay.
The church contends the couple was “asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behaviour just as any other couple would have been. They became argumentative and used profanity and refused to leave the property. They were arrested and then given a citation for criminal trespass by SLPD.”
“We were kind of standing up for ourselves,” Aune’s partner Derek Jones said. “It was obviously because we were gay.” Despite the grounds being open to the public, the Mormon church is allowed to ban protesting, smoking, sunbathing and other “offensive, indecent, obscene, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct,” church officials said at the time.
On Sunday, a protest in reaction to the incident took place at the plaza. Straight and gay couples with paper hearts on their sleeves or on face masks engaged in “gentle” displays of public affection at the plaza’s South entrance. Those who strayed on to Church property were ushered off by police and Church security.