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National News
Section One
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National News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Kiss-ins spread beyond Salt Lake temple
Thirty Gays, Lesbians and friends staged a kiss-in at the San Diego Mormon temple July 22 in solidarity with a Gay couple who were arrested in Salt Lake City July 9 for kissing on Main Street Plaza.

Salt Lake City sold the plaza to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 10 years ago, in a move that still irks some Salt Lakers. The precise location of the kiss was a former public easement that the city gave to the church in a controversial land-swap deal in 2003.

After gaining control of the former public property, the church prohibited pedestrians from smoking, protesting and sunbathing, and banned "offensive, indecent, obscene, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct."

The Utah couple - Matt Aune, 28, and Derek Jones, 25 - were charged with trespassing by Salt Lake City police officers after LDS security guards called the cops.

The guards handcuffed both men, after allegedly forcing Jones to the ground. Aune said he suffered a bruised and swollen wrist.

"They targeted us," Aune told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We weren't doing anything inappropriate or illegal, or anything most people would consider inappropriate for any other couple."

The LDS church claims the couple didn't just kiss, but "engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language, and had obviously been using alcohol."

Aune acknowledged to the Tribune that he was "very pissed" after being handcuffed and "unleashed a flurry of profanities."

More than 200 people have gathered for two kiss-ins on Main Street Plaza since the incident. There have been no further arrests.

The protesters in Salt Lake City and San Diego also spoke out against the Mormons' strong financial support for California's Proposition 8, via which voters amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage. The Yes on 8 campaign has said that as much as half of the $40 million it raised came from Mormons.

The protest in San Diego started more than half an hour late, leaving some 25 media people wondering if they'd been duped by the Empowering Spirits Foundation that called the action.

But the protesters eventually trickled in and the kissing began.

"We're standing up in support of the two individuals arrested [but] our main purpose is to be out here to try to garner some type of dialogue with the Mormon church," said foundation Executive Director A. Latham Staples.

"The kiss-in is to establish that what these two individuals were doing up in Salt Lake City - Matt Aune and Derek Jones - kissing in public - should be tolerated," Staples said.

There did not appear to be any official church presence at the event, and local Mormon officials made no comment on the protest.

IML bans barebacking depictions, materials
The Leather Market at the annual International Mr. Leather events in Chicago will have a ban on anything related to barebacking, IML founder Chuck Renslow announced July 16.

"The executive committee of International Mr. Leather has decided that it will no longer allow participation in the IML Leather Market by any entity which promotes barebacking or distributes/sells any merchandise tending to promote or advocate barebacking," Renslow said. "This restriction will also apply to distribution of gifts, postcards or any other information via our facilities."

"The CDC and local health officials inform us that new infections are on the rise," he said. "And, while we have had some success developing medications that might make infection more manageable, that accomplishment comes at a price. Not having experienced the deaths - the loss of loved ones - which preceded these medications, we have an entire generation who may not fully appreciate or comprehend the severity of the situation. Too many in our community believe HIV/AIDS is curable or manageable. Too few understand that HIV/AIDS infections dominate life. We believe that it is our duty to inform and educate."

Boycott of San Diego hotel enters second year
Gay activists gathered outside the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego on July 16 to kick off year two of the Gay boycott of the mammoth downtown twin towers.

The boycott was launched after owner Doug Manchester gave $125,000 in early seed money to get Proposition 8 on the ballot. The resulting constitutional amendment re-banned same-sex marriage in California.

Manchester has cited his Roman Catholic faith in opposing same-sex marriage.

Activists claim the boycott has cost the hotel $7 million, a figure that cannot be independently verified.

Author E. Lynn Harris dies
Author E. Lynn Harris, who wrote bestsellers about black Gay life, died July 24 at a hotel in Beverly Hills. He was 54.

The cause of death was not reported. At press time, an autopsy was planned.

Harris wrote 11 novels - including Invisible Life, Just As I Am, If This World Were Mine, and Basketball Jones - and a memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.

"His pioneering novels and powerful memoir about the black Gay experience touched and inspired millions of lives, and he was a gifted storyteller whose books brought delight and encouragement to readers everywhere," said Alison Rich, director of publicity at Harris' publisher, Doubleday. "Lynn was a warm and generous person, beloved by friends, fans and booksellers alike."

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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pictures - top: Chuck Renslow
above: Mormon kiss in
bottom: Manchester boycott
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