Former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Deeda Seed is organizing a "kiss-in" at Main Street Plaza on Sunday following an incident in which two gay men were cited for trespassing on the LDS Church-owned property.
Seed is calling for all people to bring their loved ones — husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, kids and even pets — to the downtown plaza between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and show their love with a smooch.
"(On Sunday), those of us who believe in the power of love, regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation, will be engaging in gentle, tasteful displays of public affection," Seed said.
In a Facebook announcement about the event, Seed encourages those who show up to wear a paper heart on their sleeves, "so we'll be able to recognize other love advocates."
The rally stems from a Thursday incident in which Derek Jones and his partner Matthew Aune were forced to leave the Main Street pedestrian walkway between North Temple and South Temple for what church officials labeled "inappropriate behavior."
The men reportedly were holding hands in the plaza and hugged and kissed. After security for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked the men to leave, the two men "became argumentative and used profanity and refused to leave the property," said church spokeswoman Kim Farah.
Security guards reportedly handcuffed the men, emptied their pockets and escorted them from the property. Salt Lake City police were called in and cited the men for trespassing, a class C misdemeanor. As private property of the LDS Church, it has the right to regulate speech, dress and activity on Main Street Plaza, police said.
Seed said she believes the security guards overreacted.
"Instead of channeling anger, we're hoping to channel love," she said. "What those two young men did was not wrong. They were expressing their affection."
Main Street Plaza has been the subject of controversy since 1999, when the LDS Church bought the property east of Temple Square for $8 million.
Civil rights activists protested the sale, citing the loss of civil liberties and freedom of speech on what had been public space. Lawyers were hired on both sides, marking the beginning of a legal battle that went on for three years.
On Dec. 13, 2002, then-Mayor Rocky Anderson came up with a plan to give up Salt Lake City's easement on Main Street Plaza in exchange for property on which the Sorenson Unity Center now sits.
The compromise seemingly brought to a close a controversial chapter in Salt Lake City's history that saw the city divided on religious lines. Reactions to Thursday's incident posted on deseretnews.com and other media Web sites indicate that the division still exists.
"The wound that was created during the Main Street Plaza controversy to a certain extent has been reopened by this," said Seed, one of two Salt Lake City Council members who voted against selling the city's easement to the LDS Church. "I believe the best response to a wound is to find love. ... The reason we are doing this (Sunday) is there needs to be some community healing on this."