Monday, July 27, 2009

The Salt Lake Smooch

It seems there has been some unauthorized homosexual kissing going on in Utah. Not that ANY homosexual kissing is authorized in Utah, but...

The other week, a couple of gay men took a short cut across the Main Street Plaza in Salt Lake City, after a concert. They were holding hands and according to their own account, they paused for a kiss. According to security guards at the Salt Lake City Temple, which owns the plaza, the activity was inappropriate and the couple was ordered to leave. From here the story gets muddled, as these stories always do, with the gays claiming they were handled roughly, and the Mormons claiming the queens were being pornographic. The police were called, the men were handcuffed (but not in a fun way) and were cited for trespassing. The incident triggered several protests in the following days, in which dozens of gay couples (and quite a few straights who were also incensed) gathered just outside the boundaries of the Main Street Plaza and had a Kiss-In. The national media mentioned this story in passing, but the incident has opened some wounds in Salt Lake City.

The Main Street Plaza is a full block of Main Street, constructed by the city, and is exactly what it sounds like, a plaza right in the middle of town, in front of the imposing structure of the Mormon temple. In 1999, the Mormon church offered to buy the block for over 8 million dollars (those Mormons are wealthy as sin, as evidenced by the millions they spent to support the passage of California's Prop 8, about which I railed a while back), and volunteered an easement which would allow the general public to continue to use the plaza. However, the church insisted that they (the Mormon Church) be allowed to dictate all behavior on the block; their goal was to prohibit the various protests and demonstrations which often popped up when the Church of Latter Day Saints did something repugnant (gee, how often does that happen?). I guess the city liked the dollar signs, and the city council, all but two of whom were Mormons, agreed to the terms, and the sale was made.

Thus started a long battle which continued for close to a decade. The ACLU filed suit against the terms of the deal, stating that the public's individual Constitutional Rights, such as the Right of Free Speech, go with them wherever in the United States they go; those rights cannot be relinquished while crossing the block of Main Street between North and South Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. Various appeals courts upheld the sale as legally binding, and the ACLU stopped making noise. That is, until this latest exhibition of "Christian" behavior by the Mormons. Yes, I put "Christian" in quotes, as it's hard to reconcile the virulence with which fundamentalists such as the Mormons condemn homosexuals, with all that pesky "love thy neighbor" stuff they teach.

Anytime Organized Religion attempts to dictate behavior to the public at large (rather than sticking to dictating to their own flock), there is going to be trouble.