A reprise of last weeks "kiss-in" on Main Street Plaza drew a bigger crowd Sunday and resulted in some verbal jousting between the pro- and anti-gay rights groups.
The pro-gay-rights group, estimated by police to number about 100, gathered to protest a July 9 incident in which two men were asked by LDS Church security personnel to leave the church-owned Main Street Plaza for what was characterized as inappropriate behavior.
On Sunday, the pro-gay-rights group gathered on the sidewalk outside church property near Main Street and South Temple, where an opposing faction representing anti-gay group America Forever had already set up with signs and delivered a barrage of heated rhetoric aimed at the kissers. The group has been active in Utah since last spring when they ran full-page ads in the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune opposing equal rights legislation and urging Utahns to "stand up and stop the homosexual movement."
Sunday's hugging and kissing was met with no reaction from the smattering of church security personnel present at the fringes of the gathering.
After moving on to the Main Street Plaza, the group gathered around the reflecting pond on the square and engaged in several rounds of kissing, with couples of all ilk's stepping forward for a smooch and photo opportunity.
Salt Lake residents Rick LaPointe and David Alder shared a kiss and talked about their motivation for attending the gathering Sunday. "I think this may have started as a personal issue with the security guards who stopped Matt and Derek," Alder said. "It was a shady deal to begin with and the church should have come out and said this is not our official stance. I think there's a lot of really compassionate people in the church who get this."
The LDS Church did not comment on Sunday's event, but Friday issued a statement saying "There is nothing satisfying in learning that there have been problems for anyone on church property. We hope the plaza will continue to be an asset to the community and enjoyed by the many that cross it each day."
Melody Gutierrez and Lee Madrid are downtown residents who are among the people who cross the plaza on a regular basis and attended the event to advocate for a peaceful coexistence in a community with diverse beliefs.
"All the residents of Salt Lake respect the church and respect what they choose to do in the city," Gutierrez said. "However, when it takes away from somebody's civil liberties, somebody has to stand and speak up, otherwise we'll all be repressed."
Madrid said kissing was the perfect protest to encourage and cultivate an atmosphere of tolerance.
"There's no aggression or violence, this is all revolving around love," Madrid said. "And why we're able to feel so good about doing this right now."