Salt Lake City Prosecutor Drops Charges Against Gay Couple

As we mentioned here on July 15th, a gay couple was detained and roughed up by Mormon Church Security Guards for kissing on the church-owned Main Street Plaza in downtown Salt Lake City.

The Plaza quite literally used to be one block of Main Street, but the city sold it to the church over a decade ago, and the church turned Main Street into a pedestrian walkway.

Matt Aune and Derek Jones were walking home early in July when they stopped to hug and exchange what they describe as a peck on the cheek on the Main Street Plaza.  Church security guards confronted the men and accused them of inappropriate behavior.

Derek Jones and Matt Aune, pictured in The Salt Lake Tribune

Derek Jones and Matt Aune, pictured in The Salt Lake Tribune

When the men didn’t immediately leave, and confronted the security guards on their double standard (straight couples are often seen kissing and being physically intimate on the Main Street Plaza), the security guards forcibly separated the men, forced Derek to the ground and physically detained them while waiting for Salt Lake City Police to arrive at the scene.

Police cited the men for “trespassing.”  On Wednesday, Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill dropped the charges against Jones and Aune.  "The two individuals believed -- albeit mistakenly -- that they had the right to be there," Gill is quoted as saying in The Salt Lake Tribune. "Fairness requires that either that property be not open to the public or you condition that [openness] in a way that the person who comes on understands that it is private property."+

The Salt Lake Tribune editorialized in favor of the prosecutor’s decision.

The Mormon Church released video surveillance showing their own security guards forcibly detaining the gay men to the city prosecutor, and The Salt Lake Tribune obtained and posted that video through an open records request.

As for Aune and Jones, they, along with their attorneys, held a press conference held after the charges against them had been dropped.  "We never thought we were doing anything wrong," Aune said Wednesday. "We're glad the city agreed with us."