Gay Day Temple Square

Matt Aune and Derek Jones, photo by Scott Sommerdorf Salt Lake Tribune

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that two men, Matt Aune, and Derek Jones (above) were cited by the Salt Lake City Police Department for tresspassing on private religious property:

A gay couple says they were detained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints security guards after one man kissed another on the cheek Thursday on Main Street Plaza.  “They targeted us,” said Matt Aune, 28. “We weren’t doing anything inappropriate or illegal, or anything most people would consider inappropriate for any other couple.”  Aune and his partner, Derek Jones, 25, were cited by Salt Lake City police for trespassing on the plaza, located at 50 East North Temple, according to Sgt. Robin Snyder.

They targeted them?  Who’s they, and what on earth does that mean?  Of course, there is much more to this story:

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 behavior 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.”

So, these two men were asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behavior.  They became argumentative and used profanity.  One can easily imagine this part of the confrontation.  This apparently, according to these two men, what constitutes “targeting” and discriminatory behavior.

The Tribune noted the history of this particular piece of property:

Though Salt Lake City sold the property to the church in the late 1990s, it remains a popular pedestrian thoroughfare, and a site where couples often pose affectionately for photos.

The Salt Lake Police Department on Friday denied a Salt Lake Tribune request for a full police report on the incident, citing Utah laws giving them five business days to respond to records requests.  Snyder refused to name the reason security guards gave for alerting police, saying it is “irrelevant.”

I’m just a little confused.  Is that what Monsieurs Anne and Jones were doing–posing affectionately for photos?  I don’t think so.   What about the Tribune?  Is it their custom and practice to go to press with every tresspass story and request the full police report?  When would they ever have time or room to print real news?

Snyder refused to name the reason security guards gave for alerting police, saying it is “irrelevant.”  “If a person is asked to leave private property for whatever reason and refuses to do so, that is technically trespassing,” she said.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Aune said the incident started when he and Jones were walking back to their Salt Lake City home from a Twilight Concert Series show at the Gallivan Center. The couple live just blocks away from the plaza in the Marmalade district of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The pair crossed the plaza holding hands, Aune said. About 20 feet from the edge of the plaza, Aune said he stopped, put his arm on Jones’ back and kissed him on the cheek.  Several security guards then arrived and asked the pair to leave, saying that public displays of affection are not allowed on the church property, Aune and Jones said. They protested, saying they often see other couples holding hands and kissing there, said Jones.  “We were kind of standing up for ourselves,” Jones said. “It was obviously because we were gay.”

This is where I think the fundamental and potentially unresolvable conflict arises.  Yes, countless couples (comprised of a man and woman) do pose affectionally on Temple Square for wedding photos.  They’ve been doing that for decades–and hopefully will be able to continue.  Is that wrong?  Is that a discriminatory policy, subject to constitutional challenge?  That is exactly what genderless marriage proponents want to convey and more importantly it is what they want society to believe.  Nevermind that it is a lie.

Sexual orientation is one thing.  Public displays of affection reflecting that sexual orientation extend further than mere “orientation”.  It extends to behavior that based on religious beliefs (constitutionally protected religious beliefs) offends many people.  These two men were not singled out for “being gay” (whatever that might mean in this context).  Rather, they were singled out for engaging in certain conduct that was prohibited on this particular parcel of private property–religiously owned private property.  The Church has every right both under the United States Constitution and the Utah Constitution to prohibt certain types of conduct on its property. It is really that simple.

The problem is that genderless marriage advocates want societal acceptance of a certain lifestyle, and they want it at all costs.  It is clear from this small incident on Temple Square that certain segements in society would impose very clear and disturbing limitations on the most protected of fundamental Constitutional rights:  The right to the free exercise of religion.   Monsieurs Anne and Jones and many more like them urge the abrogation of religious liberty and freedom in order for them to engage in certain conduct they find acceptable, but that others find unacceptable.  We were told over and over before, during and even after the Proposition 8 battles that people of faith would not lose their religious liberties.

This is where this debate is headed.  It extends far beyond “gay marriage.”  It goes to the  fundamental conflict and collision between the so called new civil rights movement and their newly created “fundamental rights” and the most traditional and protected rights under the First Amendment.    Buckle up–there’s more to come.

(Update 6:15 p.m.)   The Deseret News reports on a follow up demonstration which took place both near Temple Square, and some of it spilling onto Temple Square:

A “kiss-in” drew about 60 people sporting pink paper hearts to the sidewalk just off of LDS Church property near Temple Square on Sunday to protest actions taken by the LDS church’s security late last week.

Dozens of gay and straight couples smooched, posed for photos and talked with reporters while a few reminders to stay on the sidewalks were issued by church security personnel.

But, as the gathering was beginning to disperse, about 35 protesters crossed onto LDS church property and walked around the reflecting pond, eliciting a call to police by church representatives.

Kim Farah, spokeswoman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued a statement about Sunday’s action.

“Church security asked the demonstrators repeatedly not to come onto the plaza to demonstrate,” Farah said. “Though the requests were issued calmly and respectfully, demonstrators ignored the requests, and the police were phoned.”

Salt Lake Police Lt. Lamar Ewell said he and another officer responding to the call asked those involved to move off of church property and explained that the plaza and walkway through the plaza were private property. Ewell said demonstrators complied with directives from police and no citations were issued.

Further demonstrable evidence that genderless marraige proponents are not the least bit interested in respecting the Constitutionally protected religious liberties and rights of those who have differing view points.

Former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Deeda Seed launched the idea from her Facebook page after two gay men, Derek Jones and Matthew Aune, were asked to leave the church-owned pedestrian walkway between North Temple and South Temple Thursday because of “inappropriate behavior.” The men said they had been holding hands and kissed. Church officials called police, who cited the men for trespassing, after they became argumentative, used profanity and refused to leave the private property, said Farah.

Seed called the actions “heavy-handed,” and invited people to meet downtown Sunday morning near Main Street and South Temple to “engage in gentle, tasteful displays of public affection.” Friends and couples did just that at the feet of a statue of Brigham Young near the entrance to the plaza just after 9 a.m.

Heavy handed?  Really?  How would Ms. Seed like for the Elders to come knocking on her door, forcing their way inside to her living room and begin teaching from Preach My Gospel?  She would have no problem with that–I’m sure.  Her comments are ludicrous.

Seed said the idea behind the gathering was to illustrate the innocence of a simple display of affection, no matter where it occurs.

“We’re giving a visual demonstration of the power of love,” Seed said. “And, saying that it should be OK for people to show affections regardless of their sexual orientation or age.”

Well, the implementation of the idea into action and further physical tresspass on privately owned religious property again reflects the absolute truth that genderless marriage advocates do not recognize Constitutionally protected fundamental rights such as the freedom of religion, and the freedom to hold and protect certain religious beliefs.  For Ms. Seed and others it’s all about what’s in it for me and my cause?  It doesn’t matter which or whose rights upon which they trample.    How far is it OK to show affections?  Even Salt Lake City likely has laws against certain displays of public affection even on public street corners.  There is no such thing as absolute rights without some accompanying and concurrent responsiblity.  This concept is completely lost on Ms. Seed and those like her.

Salt Lake City Councilman Luke Garrott’s comments were even more obnoxious:

Salt Lake City Councilman Luke Garrott attended the event but was less pragmatic than Seed in his evaluation of the incident that sparked the demonstration.

“It’s another instance of indignity being visited on gays and lesbians,” Garrott said. “I knew this couple personally, they’re friends of mine, so it hits close to home.”

Garrott said the way church security officers handled the situation with Jones and Aune was reflective of a pattern of intolerance.

“The big picture seems still to be lost on the church leadership,” Garrott said. “The church is coming across not as defending traditional marriage but as being cruel to gay and lesbian couples. … I represent downtown Salt Lake City and it’s unacceptable to me.”

West Jordan couple Eric and Leia Jones attended the protest Sunday and said they were motivated, in part, by the rhetoric they read in comments posted on local newspaper sites reporting on the Thursday incident.

“Some people’s words and comments were pretty awful,” Eric Jones said. “We came down to be part of something more positive.”

It was indeed kind of Mr. Garrott to share his wisdom and counsel with The Brethren.   The problem is that it is Mr. Garrott upon whom the “big picture” is lost.  The big picture is not the ability of individual persons with private agendas to be able to tresspass at will on privately owned religious property.  Rather, Mr. Garrott, the big picture is embodied in the concept of fundamental rights.  Rights that are

objectively, ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,’  and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,’ such that ‘neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.

By encouraging this type of protest and trespass you are sacraficing rights that are implicit in the concept of ordered liberty on the altar of popular political opportunism.   This is where the battle lines are being drawn.  This is where the true erosion of religious freedom and liberty is taking place–right in our back yard on Temple Square.

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 behavior 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.”
So, these two men were asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behavior.  They became argumentative and used profanity.  This is what constitutes “targeting” and discriminatory behavior.