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Advocates rally and 'roar' for anti-discrimination bill

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 7:02 a.m. MDT

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, is introduced by Donna Weinholtz before speaking to supporters of the LGBT community as they gathered at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, to show their frustration with the Senate not hearing the anti-discrimination bill. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, is introduced by Donna Weinholtz before speaking to supporters of the LGBT community as they gathered at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, to show their frustration with the Senate not hearing the anti-discrimination bill. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Shouts of "SB100, now is the time" filled the Capitol rotunda Wednesday as advocates gathered to promote anti-discrimination in employment and housing for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Legislature decided not to address bills related to anti-discrimination or religious liberties during this year's session out of concern that it might affect a pending appeal concerning Utah's ban on same-sex marriage.

While advocates and SB100 bill sponsor Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, acknowledge the legislation won't move forward this year, they rallied to show they're not giving up and are already looking to 2015.

"We are America. We are Utah. We are loud. We are relentless and we will not go home until this bill is passed," said Matthew Landis, a gay rights supporter, against the backdrop of the blue notes that once hung on the Senate doors. Those notes had been posted by supporters of SB100 to encourage legislators to hear the anti-discrimination bill.

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, hugs Owen Smith, a transgender man, after Smith spoke to supporters of the LGBT community who gathered at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, to show their frustration with the Senate not hearing the anti-discrimination bill. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, hugs Owen Smith, a transgender man, after Smith spoke to supporters of the LGBT community who gathered at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, to show their frustration with the Senate not hearing the anti-discrimination bill. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

The rally was meant to inspire the LGBT community to keep fighting and to give people hope and strength, according to Troy Williams, who called the legislative stand down a "complete collapse of democracy."

Williams was one of the 13 protesters who were arrested in February for investigation of disorderly conduct for allegedly blocking access to a legislative committee meeting. He said he is waiting for formal charges to be filed and plans to plead "not guilty by reason of self-defense."

Smyth Sutter-Robinson of Salt Lake City held a sign that read "Equality NOW! STOP the gender binary!" as she stood at the front of a few hundred ralliers. The 17-year-old explained her last name is hyphenated because she has two lesbian parents.

"My parents tried to show me that their relationship was normal, and I learned that," Smyth said. "But the rest of the world showed me that there was discrimination, so I just realized that people are people. No matter who you love, no matter who you identify as, you deserve every single right every one else has."

Bill Park, right, and others joined supporters of the LGBT community at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, to show their frustration with the Senate not hearing the anti-discrimination bill. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Bill Park, right, and others joined supporters of the LGBT community at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, to show their frustration with the Senate not hearing the anti-discrimination bill. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

Urquhart believes SB100 and other legislation addressing LGBT issues should have moved forward this year, but said he and supporters will regroup and pass it next year.

"I think that we had the votes to pass this until we had the Shelby decision, and that just really had a huge effect on everyone and a lot of ripples from that on all sides," Urquhart said, referring to Judge Robert Shelby's December ruling that Utah's voter-approved ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Urquhart said the legislation is part of a bigger movement and the rally was an opportunity for elected officials to hear from their constituents.

On Wednesday it was in the form of a Katy Perry song called "Roar," sung by 10-year-old Saysia Taylor. Everybody joined in on the chorus singing, "You're gonna hear me roar."

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, awaits to speak with supporters of the LGBT community who gathered at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, to show their frustration with the Senate not hearing the anti-discrimination bill. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, awaits to speak with supporters of the LGBT community who gathered at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, to show their frustration with the Senate not hearing the anti-discrimination bill. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

"It's not going to happen this session and it's hard to say about next session," House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said about the possibility of the anti-discrimination bill being heard. "There's an election in between."

The speaker, who has said she is not seeking re-election to the Legislature, said it will be up to future lawmakers to decide whether to deal with the legislation before the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com Twitter: Madeleine6

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