Equality activists in Utah are frustrated with the legislature's refusal to take up any LGBT-related bills while the state's challenge to a court ruling establishing marriage equality is appealed, so today they took their complaints to the governor's doorstep, then to the entryway of the state's legislative committee rooms.
After more than four hours demonstrating, 12 activists were arrested when they linked arms and blocked the doors to the Senate committee rooms, according to KSTU reporter Ben Winslow, who live-tweeted the events.
According to Winslow, a reporter with Salt Lake's local Fox affiliate, citizens and the Senate sergeant-at-arms became angry when the activists blocked access to the legislative committee rooms. After a legislative counsel warned the protesters that it was a felony to block the doors, a woman in the crowd reportedly shouted "Arrest them! Arrest them all!"
Minutes later, the activists were arrested by officers with Utah's Highway Patrol. As they were led away in handcuffs, the protesters told Winslow "It's good to be heard," and shouted "With liberty and justice for all!" Winslow reports that the demonstrators could face third degree felony charges, or a class B misdemeanor charge.
Earlier in the day, the activists had blocked the entrance to Gov. George Herbert's office in the state capitol in Salt Lake City for more than three hours — refusing to move, even after highway patrol officers threatened them with arrest. The activists were demanding that lawmakers debate Senate Bill 100, which would outlaw housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
After having tense exchanges with Utah Highway Patrol officers but avoiding arrests at that time, the activists moved to the state Senate building, where they blocked the doors to legislative committee rooms, locking arms and again refusing to move.
As Winslow notes in his initial report for KSTU, Utah politicians have placed a moratorium on any LGBT-related legislation while the state appeals a December ruling that struck down a key segment of the state's constitutional ban on performing or recognizing same-sex marriages. That appeal, regarding Utah's Amendment 3, will be heard in the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in April.
Activists expressed dissatisfaction with what they called "excuses" being offered by lawmakers stalling to move SB100 out of its current committee.
"Amendment 3 is a convenient excuse not to be heard," LGBT activist Troy Williams said. "We demand to be heard!"
Legislators from both sides of the aisle — including the Democratic and Republican sponsors of the nondiscrimination bill — spoke with protesters, asking them to end their picket, and promising to approach the state's Republican caucus about the bill in the coming weeks. But the demonstrators refused to relent, ultimately being led away in handcuffs.