Anti-discrimination supporters employ nonviolent protest methods


SALT LAKE CITY — Supporters of a controversial anti-discrimination bill continue to draw attention to their cause by drawing on nonviolent protest tactics in hopes of bringing the bill to a committee hearing in the face of Senate indifference.

About a dozen supporters of SB100, the anti-discrimination bill, rallied together to support SB100 early Monday, Feb. 10, and were arrested and taken to Salt Lake County Jail later that same afternoon.

SB100 supporters standing outside Gov. Herbert's office prior to their arrest.
SB100 supporters standing outside Gov. Herbert’s office prior to their arrest.

SB100 is stalled in the Senate Rules Committee, and supporters hope their actions will convince Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, to put the bill on a committee agneda.

Monday’s protest began around 9:30 a.m., originating in front of Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s office in the Capitol, and ended outside a committee hearing room.

Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George,  sponsors the bill and has served as a go-between for protestors and Niederhauser.

These protestors refused to leave the Capitol until their demand for a firm commitment to hear SB100 were met.

Gail Turpin, one of the protestors said, “I am willing to be arrested for my friends and family.”

Others with Turpin echoed his sentiment.

A representative from the Attorney Governor’s office originally informed supporters that they did not plan on making any arrests, stating, “There was no violation.” There were no occupants within the governor’s office to warrant any kind of legal action from the Utah Highway Patrol, but after the protest switched venues it became a different situation.

2 Utah State Trooper vehicles exit the parking garage as other trooper cars exit out the back with the arrested protestors in custody.
Two Utah State Trooper vehicles exit the parking garage as other trooper cars exit out the back with the arrested protestors in custody.

Protestors moved about an hour after being told they would not be arrested to a new location, where they blocked the entrance to the committee room, making it impossible for any to enter or exit, including Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden.

They were charged with a class B misdemeanor of disorderly conduct and were taken to Salt Lake County Jail.

Troy Williams, of Equality Utah, said, “We want to shine light onto the legislative process.”

Proponents of SB100 said they are tired of decisions being made behind closed doors and are looking for open discussion of this legislation in order to avoid housing and employment discrimination against Utah citizens based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to Williams.

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.

Laura Bunker, the president of United Families International, waited to enter the committee room as the protesters filed out. She didn’t expect to see an arrest Monday, she said, but added she didn’t think the group would achieve its goal that way.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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