While Utah is dealing with the incident in the Main Street plaza involving two gay men - locally in my neck of the woods we've been dealing with our own gay drama. I don't know how national this went; but, on June 28th - which was, coincidentally, the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion - the Rainbow Lounge, a a gay bar in Fort Worth, Texas, was raided by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Fort Worth police department. As a result of this raid 6 people were arrested and one patron had to be hospitalized because of an injury to his head - allegedly due to excessive force by TABC agents and Fort Worth police officers.
Like the Main Street Plaza incident - there are conflicting accounts. The police officers claim that the people in the bar were making sexually suggestive comments and were groping the officers. The people involved deny that with one stating "we may be gay, but we're not stupid."
Like the Main Street Plaza incident, there have been regular protests since the incident.
I'm not going to comment on the right-ness or wrong-ness of either of these two incidents. The fact is, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle of the conflicting accounts, and we'll probably never know what really happened in either case.
But, what has been fascinating to me is to compare the aftermath of these two incidents.
In Utah, the LDS church quickly issued a brief press release backing the actions of the security guards.
In Texas, officials were very careful not to make a snap judgment, asking for patience while a complete investigation was done.
In Utah, all blame has been placed on the two gay men involved.
In Texas, the mayor of Fort Worth has apologized; and, the head of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission admitted that agents violated policy and violated internal rules of the department.
In Utah, the LDS church later issued a more detailed press release, this time making more serious accusations against the two gay men and again supporting the actions of the security guards.
In Texas, the Fort Worth City Council is seeking a federal inquiry into the raid.
In Utah, protests are beginning to spread with a "kiss-in" being organized at the Salt Lake City, San Diego, and possibly other, temples.
In Texas, protests are peaceful and are dwindling in both frequency and number of people attending.
In Utah, mistakes were made - probably by both sides - and the LDS church is digging in, consistent in their support of the security guards, and offering no evidence that anything has been done to prevent this sort of negative PR in the future.
In Texas, mistakes were made - probably on both sides - and now a thorough investigation is underway, a task force has been organized, and a special liaison to the Fort Worth gay community has been named. Mind you, Fort Worth is not the most gay friendly city. Of large cities (Fort Worth ranks 20th in the nation) it probably ranks near the bottom on the gay friendliness scale. Dallas is far more gay friendly than Fort Worth. Heck, Salt Lake City may very well rank higher in gay friendliness.
In Utah, For the sake of argument, let's assume the security guards are absolutely correct. Let's assume that the two gay men were drunken and disorderly and were engaging in lewd conduct that no couple, gay or straight, should be doing in public. Let's even assume that removing them by force was the correct course of action. Now let's assume that the LDS church issued a press release expressing remorse and promising an investigation into the matter. Let's assume that the subsequent press release stated that they determined the actions of the security guards were justified; however, they believe that it could have been handled better, and all church security guards will be undergoing mandatory sensitivity training. Would there still be people upset? Absolutely. Would the gay community in San Diego be organizing a kiss-in at the San Diego temple to protest something that happened in Salt Lake City? Not likely!
I am very disappointed in how my church leaders handled this situation. LDS church leaders should be smart enough to recognize this as a potential PR disaster and figure out a way to address it in a more politically correct manner. When they should be offering an olive branch to the local gay community - they are, instead, demonstrating that they just don't 'get it'. The unsaid message is coming out loud and clear that gays are disgusting and they don't want those kinds of people on church property.
In Texas, I'm proud of the way our local leaders are handling this situation. Texas is not exactly a gay friendly state. It's estimated that Texas will probably be one of the very last states to legalize gay marriage. Utah will likely recognize same sex marriages before Texas does. But, at least I feel like we're moving in the right direction, albeit ever so slowly.
As I saw once on a bumper sticker
"Naturalized Texan - I wasn't born here, but I got here as fast as I could"