Utah protesters call for lGBT anti-discrimination bill
Monday , February 10, 2014 - 10:12 PM
VIDEO COURTESY OF BEN PALES
SALT LAKE CITY — Weber County Democratic chairman Ben Pales was near the Utah State Capitol Monday afternoon when he saw a tweet saying 13 or so protestors were blocking doors there to call attention to SB 100, a bill that proposes protecting people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“So I popped over there quick, and the protesters were blocking the door to one of the Senate Committee rooms,” Pales said. “They were standing in front of it, and the press was surrounding them, and Highway Patrol officers came up and grabbed our good friend, Stuart Reid, from Ogden.” Reid, a Republican, is a state senator representing Ogden.
Pales said the Highway Patrol officer asked Reid, a vocal opponent of SB 100, if Reid wanted to get into the Senate Committee room.
Pales said “Reid said ‘Yeah,’ so the officer told the protesters ‘There’s a senator who wants to enter this room,’ and when they didn’t move, the Highway Patrol started making arrests.”
Reid could not be reached for comment.
It just feels a little silly that they’ve called to arrest us when all we want is to not be discriminated against,” said protester Dustin Trent, a moment before troopers zipped his wrists with plastic ties. “It’s time for us to engage in civil disobedience.”
Organizer and Equality Utah volunteer Donna Weinholtz said that demonstrators are asking Herbert to issue an executive order passing the anti-discrimination measure. “This is unfortunate for everyone,” she said of the arrest, “because we were here to have SB100 heard.”
The 13 protesters were taken to Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of disorderly conduct, Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Dwayne Baird said.
The arrests were cordial. Troopers asked the protesters if their wrist ties were cinched too tight, and at least one protester apologized for brushing an officer with his backpack.
St. George Republican Sen. Steve Urquhart is sponsoring legislation this year that bars discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in housing and employment. The bill is now in the Rules Committee, which can be an early graveyard for bills if they do not receive enough support from legislative leaders.
Urquhart said last week his bill appears dead this year as Republican leaders at the Legislature have decided to avoid bills that could affect the state’s gay marriage case.
Senate spokesman Ric Cantrell said the bill’s current status is “not like it’s unique. There are dozens of bills that just don’t have the support to get out yet.”
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said earlier Monday he applauds the protesters’ free speech rights. If enough members of the Rules Committee vote for it, the bill could move along, he said, adding that hasn’t happened yet.
Lawmakers working on the other side of the issue, Niederhauser added, would like their colleagues to hear their proposals as well, which they say will protect religious freedoms.
Utah lawmakers don’t want to take action on any issues that could affect the pending gay marriage case before the court issues a ruling, Niederhauser said.
He has met with members of the LGBT community to hash out a plan for those community members discuss their concerns, he said, but nothing has been decided yet.
Utah’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage was overturned by a federal judge in late December. More than 1,000 gay couples rushed to wed before the U.S. Supreme Court approved Utah’s request to halt the weddings in January. State recognition of same-sex marriages is now on hold after Utah appealed the decision on the ban to a federal appeals court.
While the protesters were stationed outside the governor’s office Monday, Urquhart spoke to the group and offered to discuss the issue again in a closed door meeting Tuesday among Senate Republicans.
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.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, praised the protesters in a statement released Monday afternoon, saying “society does best when issues are openly debated and discussed, not shoved under the rug,” adding that he understands the protesters’ frustration.STORY:201402110016Utah protesters call for lGBT anti-discrimination bill /frontpage/2014/02/11/Utah-protesters-call-for-lGBT-anti-discrimination-bill.html-1
Transgender ex-Navy SEAL at Hill urges tolerance
Friday , June 27, 2014 - 7:06 AM
HILL AIR FORCE BASE — As one of the first military installations in the country to honor June as Pride Month, under the direction of a recent policy from the Department of Defense, Hill Air Force Base invited 20-year veteran Kristin Beck, a transgender woman, to speak to Hill leaders, servicemen, and community members this week.
Beck commended Hill for hosting the pride event. “This is what America is all about, celebrating our diversity, and coming together from all walks of life,” said Beck, who is known for her service as a Navy Seal, with 13 deployments and seven combat deployments. From her time of service, Beck earned the Bronze Star medal with combat valor as well as the Purple Heart.
When Beck stepped up to the podium, she took off her jacket, revealing a sleeveless green dress with her medals pinned to it. Beck showed off her thick arm muscles, saying, “I can be a strong woman. We are all different shapes and sizes,” even admitting having worn a corset when she initially began dressing like a woman six years ago, thinking she had to look a certain way. “I learned that I don’t need to fit all those molds. I like where I am and where I am going, but we need to learn to stop judging.”
Beck spoke openly about where she has been and what her future holds, displaying pictures of how she looked while serving in the military, looking very much as a man with a long, curly beard.
“I was an angry beard guy, fighting in Iraq, Somalia, and other countries,” said Beck, pointing out her old self in the pictures. “That was me, but I am the same person you see up here on the stage,” referring to her long blond hair, makeup, dress, and heels. “We are all the same in the end, and we all deserve dignity. We are all created equal, and that is what America is built on and what we fight for today.”
Beck said there is a problem in the country with violence toward transgender people, bringing up the grim statistic that one transgender person is killed per week in America. “Most people don’t know there is a lot of violence and abuse, with hundreds of news articles of incidents,” said Beck.
The room grew somber when Beck related her experience a few years ago walking down a street in Tampa, Fla., dressed in a respectful outfit. “I was in nothing off the wall. I’m not that person in magazines, I just look like a dude in a dress sometimes,” said Beck. She was passed by four people, and then heard one of them call her a fag. Beck was then punched, and knocked unconscious.
“I woke up to four guys kicking me. They did an entire judgment based off of how I looked, and I got attacked for it,” said Beck. “That’s not American. Why did that happen? It is heartbreaking that this is going on. This is what I defended for 20 years, and we can’t let this happen. I deserve that dignity and respect because that is what our country is about.”
While in Afghanistan, Beck said they were going after a major enemy target. When Beck and her team entered the compound, they found their target, but right in the middle of the chaos was a baby crying.
“I put my gun aside, grabbed the kid and tried to keep him alive. That’s the stuff I did,” said Beck. “We protect the innocent and do everything we can to make it right.”
Relating her incident to the fight against transgender discrimination, Beck challenged the audience. “You are going to hear someone telling a joke, or see bigotry, and it’s not a giant thing like saving a kid in a firefight, but the little changes mean so much. That is what I’m doing talking about making our country better, because I don’t want future generations getting punched in the back of the head or getting verbally abused.”
Reminding the audience that everyone comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, society needs to work toward ending the labels they give people. “I want to be known as a human being, not as a member of the LGBT community,” said Beck. “We keep labeling and dividing, so that it’s easy to classify us so we know where we are coming from, but I am Kristin, and that’s what it is all about.”
Maj. Steven Oliver attended the presentation, saying as a squad commander, he knows he needs to treat everyone equally. “In my heart, that’s something I have always wanted to do anyway, and Beck touched that on a deeper level,” said Oliver. “I learned it’s not about the outer self, but achieving a level of happiness.”
Utah Capitol protesters charged after February arrests
Thursday , August 28, 2014 - 9:49 AM
SALT LAKE CITY — Charges have finally been filed against 13 protesters who were arrested at the state Capitol in February for blocking the doors to meeting rooms.
The protesters, ranging in age from 20 to 69, were charged Wednesday in Salt Lake City justice court with a misdemeanor charge of disrupting a legislative meeting.
The group was pushing for a statewide anti-discrimination law and demanded lawmakers vote on the measure.
The proposal prohibited discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in housing and employment.
The measure has been introduced for several years but lawmakers did not hold a hearing to consider it this year.
Protest organizer Troy Williams told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/1teQeKY) that lawmakers left the group with no choice.
The 44-year-old Williams is one of the 13 arrested.