UVU students joined in one of many protests on Sun. July 19 in response to the citation of two men kissing on LDS Church property at the beginning of the month.
According to a statement released by the church on the matter, Derek Jones and Matt Aune were detained by LDS security guards for “engaging in inappropriate behavior,” and then cited for trespassing by Salt Lake police on July 8.
Students who know about the citation of Jones and Aune have varied feelings on the effectiveness of the protest in getting a point across.
“Civil disobedience has often been the vehicle for social change. Our nation may have never seen the civil rights movement if large groups of African-Americans had held more respect for private property above their own dignity” said Crystal Busenbark, UVU student and protestor.
“Disappointment in gay rights protesters is no different than being disappointed in women who were arrested for putting their votes into ballot boxes when it was against the law, or for African-American’s who refused to go to the back of the bus, or for early Americans who threw tea into a harbor as a giant ‘screw off’ to the powers that be for their unfair taxation without representation. I believe we have the moral duty to break laws that enable sexism, racism and bigotry and was more than happy to stand with my friends in doing so.”
However Matthew Jonaissaint, UVU student, self-identifying homosexual and LDS church member, seems to feel that protesting does not help. “It’s just like poking a stick at the Church. Protestors make themselves look like heathens and nobody takes them seriously. What would really help is members of the Church making a stand.”
“These men were asked to stop engaging in behavior deemed in appropriate for any couple on the Plaza. There was much more involved than a simple kiss on the cheek. They engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language and had obviously been using alcohol,” said Scott Trotter, Sr. Media Relationship Manager of the LDS Public affairs department the church.
Jones and Aune, on the other hand, say it was merely a hug and kiss. There is obviously controversy about what actually happened. The police report states only that the behavior was unwanted.
“The main argument the church has given is that their reaction was one that had nothing to do with sexual orientation, that they would have done the same thing with anyone who had been acting inappropriately, which a kiss on the cheek apparently qualifies as,” Busenbark said. “Anyone who has ever actually been to Temple Square can tell you there are constantly couples in various states of heterosexual public displays of affection.”
“If Church members took the Church seriously they would be worried about having their wedding photos taken at the Salt Lake City LDS Temple. Either the Church needs to be honest and say the reason they cited Matt and Derek was because they were homosexual or they need to apply the same code of conduct to all people on their property,” said Jonaissaint.
Although church guidelines may be seen as strict, the church has not changed their visitor policy because of this incident.
“Millions of visitors come to the Church headquarters properties each year. We are glad they come and want all to feel welcome. We do ask that certain guidelines be kept on Church property including that no demonstrations are allowed here. There is plenty of public property surrounding the church’s headquarters available for those who wish to use it,” Trotter said.