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Gays and friends stage kiss-in at San Diego Mormon temple
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Gays and friends stage kiss-in at San Diego Mormon temple

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Thirty Gays, Lesbians and friends staged a kiss-in at the San Diego Mormon temple July 22 in solidarity with a Gay couple who were arrested in Salt Lake City July 9 for kissing on Main Street Plaza.

Salt Lake City sold the plaza to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 10 years ago, in a move that still irks some Salt Lakers. The precise location of the kiss was a former public easement that the city gave to the church in a controversial land-swap deal in 2003.

After gaining control of the former public property, the church prohibited pedestrians from smoking, protesting and sunbathing, and banned "offensive, indecent, obscene, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct."

The Utah couple - Matt Aune, 28, and Derek Jones, 25 - were charged with trespassing by Salt Lake City police officers after LDS security guards called the cops.

The guards handcuffed both men, after forcing Jones to the ground. Aune said he suffered a bruised and swollen wrist.

"They targeted us," Aune told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We weren't doing anything inappropriate or illegal, or anything most people would consider inappropriate for any other couple."

The LDS church claims the couple didn't just kiss, but "engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language, and had obviously been using alcohol."

Aune acknowledge to the Tribune that he was "very pissed" after being handcuffed and "unleashed a flurry of profanities."

More than 200 people have gathered for two kiss-ins on Main Street Plaza since the incident. There have been no further arrests.

The protesters in Salt Lake City and San Diego also spoke out against the Mormons' strong financial support for California's Proposition 8, via which voters amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage. The Yes on 8 campaign has said that as much as half of the $40 million it raised came from Mormons.

The protest in San Diego started more than half an hour late, leaving some 25 media people wondering if they'd been duped by the Empowering Spirits Foundation that called the action.

But the protesters eventually trickled in and the kissing began.

"We're standing up in support of the two individuals arrested [but] our main purpose is to be out here to try to garner some type of dialogue with the Mormon church," said foundation Executive Director A. Latham Staples.

"The kiss-in is to establish that what these two individuals were doing up in Salt Lake City - Matt Aune and Derek Jones - kissing in public - should be tolerated," Staples said.

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