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Protesters calling for statewide LGBT protections arrested at Utah capitol

Monday, February 10, 2014
Rick Bowmer, APA Utah Highway Patrol trooper informs protesters who blocked the doors to the higher education committee hearing of their arrest Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The protesters called for a statewide anti-discrimination law that protects sexual or gender orientation.

Rick Bowmer, AP
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper informs protesters who blocked the doors to the higher education committee hearing of their arrest Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The protesters called for a statewide anti-discrimination law that protects sexual or gender orientation.

Updated: 5:30 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — About a dozen protesters calling for a statewide anti-discrimination law that includes sexual and gender orientation protections were arrested Monday after blocking the doors to a committee meeting room at the Utah Capitol.

Utah Highway Patrol troopers, which provide Capitol security, led the 13 protesters out in three waves after they blocked Senator Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, and visitors from two sets of double doors to the room.

Rick Bowmer, AP

Rick Bowmer, AP

Rick Bowmer, AP

Rick Bowmer, AP

Rick Bowmer, AP

Rick Bowmer, AP

“It just feels a little silly that they’ve called to arrest us when all we want is to not be discriminated against,” said protester Dustin Trent, a moment before troopers zipped his wrists with plastic ties. “It’s time for us to engage in civil disobedience.”

Organizer and Equality Utah volunteer Donna Weinholtz said that demonstrators are asking Herbert to issue an executive order passing the anti-discrimination measure. “This is unfortunate for everyone,” she said of the arrest, “because we were here to have SB100 heard.”

The 13 protesters were taken to Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of disorderly conduct, Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Dwayne Baird said.

The arrests were cordial. Troopers asked the protesters if their wrist ties were cinched too tight, and at least one protester apologized for brushing an officer with his backpack.

St. George Republican Sen. Steve Urquhart is sponsoring legislation this year that bars discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in housing and employment. The bill is now in the Rules Committee, which can be an early graveyard for bills if they do not receive enough support from legislative leaders.

Urquhart said last week his bill appears dead this year as Republican leaders at the Legislature have decided to avoid bills that could affect the state’s gay marriage case.

Senate spokesman Ric Cantrell said the bill’s current status is “not like it’s unique. There are dozens of bills that just don’t have the support to get out yet.”

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said earlier Monday he applauds the protesters’ free speech rights. If enough members of the Rules Committee vote for it, the bill could move along, he said, adding that hasn’t happened yet.

Lawmakers working on the other side of the issue, Niederhauser added, would like their colleagues to hear their proposals as well, which they say will protect religious freedoms.

Utah lawmakers don’t want to take action on any issues that could affect the pending gay marriage case before the court issues a ruling, Niederhauser said.

He has met with members of the LGBT community to hash out a plan for those community members discuss their concerns, he said, but nothing has been decided yet.

Utah’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage was overturned by a federal judge in late December. More than 1,000 gay couples rushed to wed before the U.S. Supreme Court approved Utah’s request to halt the weddings in January. State recognition of same-sex marriages is now on hold after Utah appealed the decision on the ban to a federal appeals court.

While the protesters were stationed outside the governor’s office Monday, Urquhart spoke to the group and offered to discuss the issue again in a closed door meeting Tuesday among Senate Republicans.

Herbert’s spokesman Marty Carpenter said in a statement that the governor’s office appreciates citizens voicing their opinion. He urged anyone concerned to contact legislators because the bill remains in the Utah Senate.

Laura Bunker, the president of United Families International, waited to enter the committee room as the protesters filed out. She didn’t expect to see an arrest Monday, she said, but added she didn’t think the group would achieve its goal that way.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, praised the protesters in a statement released Monday afternoon, saying “society does best when issues are openly debated and discussed, not shoved under the rug,” adding that he understands the protesters’ frustration.

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21 more reader comments:

  1. When does it ever end?

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:13pm
  2. I hope they all sue

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:16pm
  3. In solidarity….

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:17pm
  4. I need some, now!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:21pm
  5. It’s cute how they send out their eight foot Neanderthal to deal with the supporters

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:22pm
  6. That would be an insult to Neanderthals at least they had common sense!

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:18am
  7. cute? it's bullying.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:22am
  8. Seriously?! I hope they sue.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:25pm
  9. What happened to the right to peacefully protest

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:30pm
  10. They didn't meet the definition of peaceful protest, because they were interfering in the Representatives ability to do their job. It's the same if you block traffic when protesting. You will get arrested if you don't move. It's just how the system works. Thankfully, the system also has some leeway in this. Although the police have to arrest, due to the misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, the court will probably have their records wiped clean if they meet certain conditions met by the court. I have some experience here, when it comes to these arrests for idiotic reasons, courts are usually very sympathetic. Frankly, they don't think the crime is worth the effort of prosecuting and bend over backwards to get you out of the system with a clean record.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:01am
  11. FIGHT BACK!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:46pm
  12. At least they’re not using water cannons and police dogs like they did in the sixties. Still… the whole civilized world is watching you, Utah. Then again, maybe you’re expecting support from the uncivilized world, like Uganda, Iran, Russia, or Saudi Arabia.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:46am
  13. Don’t blame the police. They are mandated to arrest in situations like this, when people are blocking the entryway to the capitol.

    Part of civil disobedience is being prepared to be arrested; and I’d also urge people to consider that the police have absolutely no leeway when it comes to these situations. Even if they don’t like it, they are mandated to arrest you.

    And if these are first time offenses, they’ll get their records wiped clean, if they follow the instructions of the court. So blame the system for making these protests necessary, NOT the police.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:53am
  14. Wow. People in this day and age are a bunch of wimps. Go study protesting throughout the ages, see how it actually works. You protest to get media attention. You get arrested for MORE media attention.

    Suffragists (early 1900s), members arrested on purpose. Major media coverage.
    Racial Rights activists (1960s), members arrested on purpose. Major media coverage.
    Anti-war activists (late 1960s-early 1970s), arrested on purpose. Major media coverage.
    ERA activists (1970s), arrested on purpose. Major media coverage.
    Anti-Nukes activists (1980s), arrested on purpose. Major media coverage.
    Pro-choice activists (1990s), arrested on purpose. Major media coverage.
    Marriage Equality activists (2000s), very few arrested. LOTS of whining. Major media coverage… mostly regarding the whining.

    You want to make change, grow a back bone.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:57am
  15. WE ARE NOT SECOND CLASS CITIZENS

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:05am
  16. Big difference between being arrested and being beaten. When I said “cute”, it was sarcasm. We need a sarcasm font, evidently.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:55am
  17. So much for free speech.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:11am
  18. Good for them, we have to learn to start standing our ground!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:46am
  19. What a bunch of crap!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:39am
  20. We’ll this sucks

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:32am
  21. the people as one will prevail

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:48am