A gay rights group plans to stage a mass kissing demonstration outside the San Diego Mormon temple as a show of support for a gay couple cited for trespassing in Utah after sharing a kiss on church property.
The Empowering Spirits Foundation says the "kiss-in" is intended as a peaceful rally to encourage dialogue between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The event is scheduled for Wednesday evening at the temple near La Jolla, Calif.
"It's an opportunity for us to stand up for two members of our community that we obviously felt were mistreated and treated unfairly," foundation executive director A. Latham Staples said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "At the same time, it's also an opportunity, hopefully, to entertain a dialogue with the Mormon church."
It would be the third kissing demonstration -- but the first outside Utah -- held since Matt Aune and Derek Jones were cited for trespassing on the church-owned Main Street Plaza on July 9 in Salt Lake City.
The couple refused to leave the plaza when security guards who saw the kiss said the behavior was inappropriate. When Aune and Jones became argumentative, both were handcuffed and Aune was pinned to the ground before police were called.
Aune has said the couple's display of affection was modest, but church officials have characterized it differently. In a statement last week, a church spokeswoman Kim Farah said the men "engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language, and had obviously been using alcohol."
An arraignment is set for Thursday in Salt Lake City's municipal court.
Staples has also sent a letter to church president Thomas S. Monson asking to meet with church officials from the San Diego temple. In the letter, which was provided to The Associated Press, Staples said he admires the steadfast faith of Mormons and argues that attempts to marginalize any segment of society degrades belief systems central to both the nation and the Mormon church.
"Surely, we can both agree any individual, group, or community that alienates individuals because of a differing perspective does not reflect tolerant values as defined by God or by this country's founding fathers," Staples wrote.
Staples started the foundation last fall after California voted to ban gay marriage and said the organization wants to end the divisive, disrespectful rhetoric and behavior on both sides of the gay rights debate.
"When you attack someone, they'll just put up the wall and there's no way for any kind of dialogue," he said.
The foundation has some 103,000 members in chapters scattered across the U.S. and works to change attitudes through service work, Staples said. The foundation is considering holding similar kiss-in events across the country.
The church declined to comment on the event or the letter to Monson on Tuesday.