Six months ago 13 protesters were arrested for having a peaceful “sit in” protest at the Legislature to demonstrate against lawmakers' refusal to even consider a bill to offer housing and workplace non-discrimination protections for LGBT Utahns.
Danielle Hawks one of the attorneys in the case pointed out that the recent decision to punt on the non-discrimination bill was done behind closed doors.
“Our clients were charged with Class B misdemeanors for 'disrupting the legislative process.'” Hawkes said at a press conference held on the steps of the Utah State Capitol Thursday. “As you can see it was not our clients who disrupted the legislative process it was the Legislature who decided in closed door meetings and have for years—they are the ones who disrupted the process. Our clients were up here trying to open the door for all LGBT Utahns and their families.”
The arrests occurred during the 2014 legislative session when the protesters linked arms and blocked the entrance of a meeting room. The protest followed a decision by legislators to hold off on hearing any bills related to LGBT issues for fear that if lawmakers spoke harshly of the LGBT community that it could be used against the state in it's ongoing court battle to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage.
Troy Williams, an LGBT advocate and one of those arrested, cited a Deseret News
/KSL poll showing 72 percent of Utahns polled favoring a statewide non-discrimination law as proof of the Legislature being disconnected from the will of the people they represent. He also argued that the act of civil disobedience the protesters took part in came only after years of lobbying, discussion,s townhall meeting and other failed means of engaging with lawmakers.
“I wanted to talk to you briefly about an ancient gay proverb and that is of a single snowflake,” Williams said. “A single snowflake is beautiful and ornate and it is fabulous. But alone it is vulnerable and can easily melt but together a flurry of snowflakes can shut down an entire city.
“We have no desire, ever to shut down the Utah Legislature. We wan to work with our legislators to ensure we have equal protection under the law. That is our goal and that is our objective. We want to make sure every Utahn has a shot at the American dream.”
The protesters will have their first court appearance in the Salt Lake City Justice Court on September 26.