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Protest in Salt Lake City

Guest Author - Barbara Sharpe

There are several different versions of the Derek Jones and Matthew Aune story.

Here’s a synopsis: Jones and Aune were walking on a part of Main Street which is now privately owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), or as they are more commonly known, the Mormons. Jones and Aune say they were only holding hands and kissed briefly, the security guards who confronted them claim that they were engaging in considerably more sexual behavior.

The official LDS statement reads, “Two individuals came on Church property and were politely 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.”

There are witnesses who say that Jones and Aune were blatantly sexual and others who say that the kiss was minor. Given that, for many people, any display of affection by LGBT people is tantamount to having sex, I tend to believe that it was not as overtly sexual as some believe. Given that at least one of the men had been drinking, I would say it could also be true that it wasn’t as chaste as they would like to think.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how chaste the kiss was or wasn’t. Here is my barometer for whether or not we need to be concerned: If a straight couple did it, would there be any issue? If the answer is “no”, then it is definitely discriminatory and we should take issue with it.

Salt Lake City TV station ABC-4 did a story on Jones and Aune and the controversy. They filmed the area where Jones and Aune were arrested and there were people holding hands and even kissing. There were no LDS security guards asking the heterosexuals to please refrain from inappropriate behavior.

It’s true that Jones and Aune were on private property. However, just because it’s private property does not give the owners license to do whatever they want with no expectations of consequence. The LDS church is perfectly free in this country – thank Goodness – to believe whatever they want. That includes thinking that it’s a sin to be LGBT. At the same time, those of us who disagree are also perfectly free to protest.

In protest of the way Jones and Aune were treated, a Kiss In was staged last week. Interestingly, a number of protestors were heterosexual. (Or heteroflexible as some were calling them. As in “straight but not narrow.”) I’m not sure what purpose the protest was expected to serve. Chances are great that it had little, if any, impact on the LDS church itself. Its position isn’t likely to change due to a protest. One the other hand, every instance of pro-LGBT media coverage we can get means that there is one more chance to open the mind – and heart – of someone who has opposed full equality for us.
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