Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gay kiss charges dropped

Posted By on July 29, 2009, 2:01 PM

Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill today "decided not to prosecute" Derek Jones and boyfriend Matt Aune for their July 9 kiss on Main St. Plaza, which riled security officers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-day Saints stationed around Temple Square.

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Jones is an advertising account manager for City Weekly.

Though the protests, including the "Great Nationwide Kiss-in" set for Aug. 15, have focussed on equal protection issues between queers and straights, Jones and Aune's charges were dismissed because they were not given proper notice either "verbally or by appropriate and adequate signage," Gill, a Democrat, wrote in his press release.

This notice requirement is essential where there is room for confusion.  That is where a member of the public may mistakenly believe they have a right to be on that property.  Properties which are “open to the public” but nonetheless “private’” require a notice with sufficient clarity to avoid confusion before any criminal prosecution can be successful.

I interviewed Derek moments ago. Jones said he and Aune were represented pro bono by Bugden & Isaacson.

"We told (the attorneys) that we didn't want to take it to trial," Jones said. "Both Matt and I felt that isn't who we are."

Jones said this was never about instigating a scandal, despite allegations some Web site commenters have made about the issue.

"We were just passing through ... we weren't there to rouse the security guards."

How does Jones feel?

"Relieved and happy Sim Gil dropped the charges. It's awesome ... he could tell we weren't trying to interfere with their property and (that) we were under the impression we were allowed to be there. ... If they don't want gay couples on their property, that needs to be posted."

Jones and Aune were detained and hand cuffed by church security as a result of holding hands, kissing and profanity that resulted from the guards interrupting their 10:30 p.m. walk home after a Twighlight Concert in downtown Salt Lake City. SLC Police issued trespassing citations when they arrived on scene.

I called the LDS Newsroom for comment. They have not called me back yet.

The church claimed previously that they disallow any public displays of affection - gay, straight, whatever - on their property but many people have contested that claim, stating straight couples are seen smooching there all the time, especially for wedding photos, and security doesn't seem to mind.

This blog post July 14 from the Mormon Lawyers blog post turned out to be prescient on the issue of notice.

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Jesse Fruhwirth

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