Published July 19, 2009
| Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY – A mass-kissing protest near the Mormon church temple Sunday drew a shouting match between gay activists and their critics.
For the second consecutive weekend, about 100 people gathered to stage a "kiss-in" to protest the treatment of two gay men cited for trespassing July 9 after they shared a kiss on the plaza owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both gay and straight couples exchanged kisses during the protest.
Demonstrators were greeted at the south entrance by a group of protesters carrying large signs that denounced homosexuality, prompting a heated verbal exchange.
Police say no one was arrested or cited, despite a large group exchanging kisses by a reflecting pool at the plaza's center.
"We didn't call the police. We didn't do anything," church spokeswoman Kim Farah said.
The church bought one block of Salt Lake City's Main Street to build a plaza in the 1990s alongside the Temple, where Mormon marriages and other religious rituals take place.
Matt Aune has said he and his partner, Derek Jones, exchanged a modest kiss at the plaza 11 days ago, but church officials contend their behavior was lewd.
"There was much more involved that a simple kiss of the cheek," Farah said in a statement Friday. "They engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language, and had obviously been using alcohol."
The men have said they were walking home from a nearby concert and cutting through the plaza on their way home.
A police report said they sat down for a kiss and were approached by a pair of church security guards, who asked them to leave because their behavior was "unwanted."
Both were handcuffed and Aune was pinned to the ground.