Monica Bielanko
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I Kissed A Girl

Last weekend I went to photograph a rally for gay rights at Temple Square, Mormon headquarters of the Universe. As the story goes, last week two gay men were walking across temple property (it used to be public Main Street in Downtown Salt Lake until the church bought it. Yes, just up and bought a chunk of Main Street). So technically it's private property but it has a public easement, meaning the public can use it to get from here to there.

So the men were walking home on the property and they were (gasp!) holding hands! Gay men holding hands. And then... AND THEN... one kissed the other (oh my, the horror!) in celebration of the lovely night they'd had watching an outdoor concert together.

Immediately church security (think Paul Blart Mall Cop) descended on the men. The gay men, knowing very well why church security zeroed in on them when straight couples hold hands and kiss on the plaza all the time, became defensive. A fight ensued, police were called and the gay couple was thrown to the ground and handcuffed. They were eventually charged with trespassing.

The next day the church spokesperson, who rarely appears on camera despite the small fact that IT'S HER JOB, released a statement saying the men were behaving inappropriately. My first thought; well sure they were, y'all were harassing them for engaging in the same behaviors straight couples are entitled to there every day. I can't count the number of times I've seen just married straight couples there posing and smooching for cameras.

A week later, when the story hadn't died down, the church issued another statement essentially saying uh, we forgot to mention the couple was passionately kissing, groping, belligerent and drunk. I suppose the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but I don't believe the couple became defensive or "belligerent" until they were stopped, basically, for being gay. Also, I'm familiar with church security down there at God's House. Overzealous types, zero sense of humor who get off on channeling the FBI with their dark suits and sunglasses, enforcing the laws of the land in god's name. Usually in their early twenties. Seen it a million times, give a loser a badge and he goes a little nutso all hopped up on power.

Long story longer: Sunday I, along with my best gal Violet, went downtown to photograph a "kiss-in". An event planned at Temple Square to show support to the gay couple. I meant to just take photographs but there were such hateful, misguided people there holding huge anti-gay signs. You know the kinds of people, you know the kinds of signs. Devoutly religious faithful just trying to spread God's love with their "Go Away Fag Sinners" rhetoric.

There they are waving banners the size of sheets while shouting gay slurs and demeaning these kids who'd gathered around. One young man, near tears, just kept shouting over and over, "I was born gay! There's nothing I can do about it! Do you think I'd CHOOSE to live a life where people like you constantly condemn me?" I stood there watching for a minute with Violet strapped to my chest. I pulled out my camera but before I could take a single photo I lost it. Straight up lost my shit. First I shouted at the ten or twenty people standing there watching to help me cover the signs, which we did. While standing so close to the woman holding it I got suckered into a debate with her. Snippets of our "conversation" later played out on all the evening newscasts. Me shouting about the LDS church sponsored Proposition 8 and her screaming how bad she feels that my daughter has to be raised by me. I forgot, you can't debate the devoutly religious. There is no point. I'd rather slice my body with paper then jump in a lemon juice bath.

Later, along with a bunch of other folks, I kissed a girl in the ominous shadow of Temple Square.

I hope my participation in such events teaches my daughter an important lesson. Stand up when you have the opportunity to do so. Never stay silent when the underdog is being oppressed. I understand religious rights. I do. I also respect the church's property but if you're going to come down on folks for kissing on a public easement, come down on everyone, not just the gays. Or post a sign stating what you really mean; NO GAYS.

Gay rights are just that. Rights. Civil fucking rights. No morality debate, no religious debate. Everyone is entitled to the same rights in this country regardless of color, religion, race and sexuality.

Here's something the local paper put together. Look at my tiny, rally buddy. She's a trooper.

Gay Rally-Salt Lake Tribune