Thirteen protesters were charged Wednesday on allegations they disrupted a legislative meeting as they pushed for a vote on a bill outlawing discrimination against gay people.
The demonstrators, ages 20 to 69, were arrested Feb. 10 as they blocked the entrance to a hearing in hopes of intercepting Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and demanding a vote on SB 100, which died in a closed-door meeting where Senate Republicans voted not to consider the anti-discrimination bill.
Lawmakers said attorneys advised them to kill the bill for fear that any debate could reveal "animus" against LGBT people and fuel the case against the state’s gay marriage ban, struck down in December by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby in a decision that was affirmed on appeal and now is pending review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The anti-discrimination bill was not voted on; similar bills have been defeated for each of the past five years.
"They left us with no choice," declared protest organizer Troy Williams, 44, who was charged in Salt Lake City’s justice court, along with the other 12 defendants, with disrupting a meeting, a class B misdemeanor. "Utah legislators have subverted the democratic process. Even though a statewide nondiscrimination bill for gay and transgender Utahns has widespread public support, our legislators have, year after year, blocked our bills from floor debate."
Also charged Wednesday were: Matthew James Landis, 44; Steven Randall Germann, 22; Donna Gonzalez Weinholtz, 59; Gail Ellen Murdock, 61; Justin James Trent, 24; Jacob Joseph Hanson, 27; Angela Jo Isaacs, 34; Orlando Luna, 20; Kevin Scott Garner, 31; Michelle Turpin, 51; Matthew Anderson Conway, 26; and Gail Mildred Turpin, 69.
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