Gay rights protesters arrested at Utah Capitol

2014-02-10T15:47:00Z Gay rights protesters arrested at Utah CapitolThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 10, 2014 3:47 pm  • 

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 protesters out in three waves after they blocked Senator Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, and visitors from two sets of double doors to the room.

"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 led him out, continuing, "it's time for us to engage in civil disobedience."

Organizer and Equality Utah volunteer Donna Weinholtz told The Salt Lake Tribune that demonstrators are asking Herbert to issue an executive order passing the anti-discrimination measure. The protesters earlier stood outside the governor's office, but because legislative employees could still make their way in through other entrances, they weren't arrested there.

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 is known as legislative purgatory where bills can stay stalled if they do not receive enough support from legislators.

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

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.

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.

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. I understand the frustration of the protesters and of so many Utahns."

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.