On Thursday a Salt Lake City gay couple was briefly handcuffed and detained by police after sharing a kiss on a plaza owned by the Mormon Church.
“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. 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.”
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.” “If a person is asked to leave private property for whatever reason and refuses to do so, that is technically trespassing,” she said.
The kiss happened on a formerly public easement that was transferred to the Mormon Church in 2003, a transaction that one member of the gay couple says he protested at the time. He also admits “unleashing a flurry of profanities” upon the police during the incident.