The Mormon church‘s aggressive support for Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California last year, has turned the Utah-based church into a lightning rod for gay rights activism, including a “nationwide kiss-in” today in more than 50 communities.
The event comes after gay couples in Utah and Texas were arrested, cited for trespassing or harassed by police for publicly kissing.
In Utah, the July 9 trespassing incident at Temple Square in Salt Lake City occurred when a gay couple was observed by security guards kissing on the plaza owned by the 13 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Derek Jones and Matt Aune were cited for trespassing after refusing to leave. The incident led to two local, kiss-in protests against the church in Salt Lake City, a third in San Diego, and today’s nationwide protest.
In the Texas incident on June 29, a security guard allegedly ejected a party of gay customers from a Chico’s Tacos restaurant after one man kissed his boyfriend. After security guards called for the police, an officer threatened to arrest the men under a now-invalidated Texas law banning same-sex intimacy. And in San Antonio last December, two women were arrested for “making out.”
National organizers say Saturday’s broadly-held gay rights demonstrations were not aimed specifically at the Mormon church. But observers say the church’s heavy-handed intervention into California politics will linger and has tarnished the faith’s image.
Last year at the urging of church leaders, Mormons donated tens of millions of dollars to the “Yes on 8″ campaign and were among the most vigorous volunteers. The institutional church gave nearly $190,000 to the campaign — contributions now being investigated by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
Updated: 18:30 PDT. Videos from today’s events: