"Capitol 13" LGBT Rights Activists Charged | KUER 90.1

"Capitol 13" LGBT Rights Activists Charged

Aug 28, 2014

The Salt Lake City Prosecutor has charged the 13 gay rights activists arrested at the State Capitol earlier this year with disrupting the legislative process.

The 13 protestors were arrested on February 10 after blocking legislators from entering a committee meeting. KRCL radio host Troy Williams was among those arrested.

“The Capitol 13 collectively pleads not guilty and we are prepared to defend our actions before a jury of our peers.”

He says they were only obstructing the doorway to the meeting as a symbol of the legislature’s attempt to obstruct debate of a statewide non-discrimination bill.  The proposal would have prohibited discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in housing and employment, but influential lawmakers barred the bill from coming to the floor for consideration.

“We were shut out of the democratic process," Williams says. "Our community was shut out of the democratic process. So, we had no choice. So, we came to the capitol to follow the proud tradition of American civil disobedience.”

Danielle Hawkes is a lawyer representing four of the 13. She says she hopes to defend her clients right to protest.

“Our clients were up here at the legislature protesting peacefully, calmly," she says. "They were protesting the fact that the legislators had disrupted my client’s legislative process.

The charges against the so-called “Capitol 13” are class B misdemeanors. If convicted, the 13 could be punished with a fine of up to $1,000. Several other protests about LGBT issues took place at the capitol this year without conflict. Legislators also held a town hall style meeting that several members of the LGBT community participated in.