Tonight, activists and protesters sat quietly with mouths covered, in an act of censorship, on the east staircase of the Capitol Building's rotunda to advocate for LGBT rights. The turnout of over 80 people surprised even event organizer and activist Eric Ethington, who expected no more than 30.---
Planned about 24 hours after Friday's Forum at the U, this protest is for a different reason. "While the forum was important in providing an outlet for people, this is mostly a response to Sen. Mike Waddoups' [R-Taylorsvile] comments and his threats," Ethington says. See City Weekly's previous blogs for more coverage. "Whether you agree with us or not, we are here and we are going to share our beliefs," Ethington says.
During the protest, Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, along with Sen. Stephenson, R-Draper, came over to show support and say that both sides have a long way to go. Both Senators declined comment, saying that they didn't want to take the voice away from the protesters, that this was their time.
"McAdams has done a lot for our community. He has been our voice to many people in government. Stephenson, on the other hand, I'm not sure how sincere that was, but he has come a long way in just a few months," Ethington says.
Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, also came over to speak to the sit-in. She was shooed away by activist Martha Amundsen and others, because, Amundsen says, Johnson began to repeat the reasons for the compromise. "[Sen. Johnson] had her time yesterday at the forum. This is ours," Amundsen says.
Amundsen says that this protest, for her, isn't just about Waddoups. "I'm frustrated with how Equality Utah and Sen. Johnson say they speak for the community and made the decision to compromise on the community's behalf, but they didn't ask for the community's opinion or input before making the decision." Even if the pro-LGBT bills wouldn't have passed through Legislature, Amundsen says it would have been an opportunity to put a local, and even national, spotlight on the "bigots." "That's the only thing that works to push the LDS into changing," Amundsen says.
But what will continue to worry her is what might trigger Waddoups into actualizing his threats. "It could be anything from holding hands, voicing our opinions to just breathing and being gay."
So, what's next? Led by Ethington, members of the community will be meeting at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14 at Bennion Junior High in West Jordan to make handmade Valentine's Day cards to be delivered to Waddoups and his neighbors. But, this is not a sarcastic act, it's just sharing love, says Ethington.