Salt Lake City kissing protest brings cheers, jeers (with multimedia)

Published July 19, 2009 9:33 pm
Counter-protesters such as America Forever criticized gays.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Hans Totterer said he came to the LDS Church's Main Street Plaza in Salt Lake City for Sunday's 12:15 p.m. "kiss-in" without plans for smooching.

After a heated exchange across signs held by counter-protesters from the anti-gay group America Forever, however, he found a surprise partner. As the two men locked lips, those in support of the protest cheered.

Counter-protesters holding placards chiding gays for "leading a persecution movement against American religions," jeered.

"Their signs insulted me," said Totterer, an 18-year-old supply store employee and Salt Lake Community College student. "They upset me so much, I couldn't think of anything else to do."

Later on, at the south end of the Main Street Plaza, more than 200 protesters left the public sidewalk and walked onto church property for three rounds of kissing between the plaza's fountain pool and Salt Lake City LDS Temple.

The event marked the second such protest in support of two men cited for trespassing on church property July 8 after security guards apprehended them for kissing on the plaza, which was sold to the church in 1999.

After 20 minutes of shouting between members of America Forever and protesters at Sunday's event, several gay couples moved to the plaza for kissing and hand-holding, along with straight couples such as Peter Saunders, a Salt Lake City software designer, and his wife of 37 years, Gerda.

"There's no need for controversy and hatred, especially in a beautiful environment like this," said Saunders, raising his right arm toward the temple.

LDS Church members in support of the protest, and troubled by their church's support last fall for California's Proposition 8, also made a showing. One handed out fliers promoting an online petition for reconciliation between the church and the gay and lesbian community. Another, 25-year-old Brigham Young University graduate Kate Savage, attended with her boyfriend, Tristan Call.

"It's as if the doctrine of the importance of families we're taught is used to destroy other people's families, and we don't understand that," Savage said.

Counter-protesters led by America Forever's Sandra Rodrigues held their ground, even if unsuccessful in preventing protesters from entering church property. "This is a staged scenario," Rodrigues said. "These people just want to embarrass the church."

Police arrived after reports of two slight altercations between protesters and counter-protesters, including a roll-by kiss given to one female counter-protester by a man wearing in-line skates who sped north across the plaza grounds and was too fast to be apprehended.

"There were a couple tussles here and there that de-escalated, which is just the way we like it," said Salt Lake City Police Lt. Carl Kunz.

LDS Church spokeswoman Kim Farah declined to comment regarding the Sunday afternoon protest.

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