Gay couple arrested by Mormon ‘morality’ police

GAY couple Matt Aune, 28 and his partner, Derek Jones, 25, felt the full fury of Mormon security guards when they exchanged a kiss on Main Street Plaza in Salt Lake City earlier this week.

Matt Aune and Jones

Matt Aune and Derek Jones

According to this report, several security guards rushed over and told the pair to leave the area, saying that public displays of affection were not allowed on church property.

When they protested, the guards put Jones on the ground and handcuffed him. Aune said he was also cuffed roughly, and suffered bruises and a swollen wrist.

The plaza was once part of public area, but was acquired by the Church of Latter Day Saints in a controversial land-swap deal with the city.  The deal allowed the church to ban protesting, smoking, sunbathing and other:

Offensive, indecent, obscene, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct.

In a written statement, church spokeswoman Kim Farah denied the two were singled out for being gay. The church contends that Aune and Jones were:

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 Salt Lake City Police Department.

Farah said the two men “became argumentative,” refused to leave, and used profanity.

Aune admitted swearing:

When I was handcuffed, I was very pissed [angry] and I unleashed a flurry of profanities.

UPDATE: July 12 - About 100 people gathered near the Mormon church’s downtown temple to stage a “kiss-in” protesting the treatment of Aune and Jones.

According to this report, former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Deeda Seed helped organise today’s kiss-in.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on its Web site that heterosexual and gay couples exchanged small kisses and pecks at the plaza’s south entrance, which faces downtown. Church security was present. The Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported on its Web site that no altercations occurred.