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It's got to be an uncomfortable situation for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

The liberal leader of one of the Western United States' most liberal and gay-friendly cities must now witness what many observers will cast as a political persecution of LGBT advocates by an alleged overzealous prosecutor he appointed.

In what the gay and lesbian community and many of its straight supporters are calling an outrageous overstep of authority, Salt Lake City prosecutor Padma Veeru-Collings filed misdemeanor charges against 13 people who exercised their First Amendment right of free speech and peaceful assembly last February when they objected to the Utah Legislature's dereliction of duty.

It took the city prosecutor's office more than six months to file charges against the so-called Capitol 13 group that sat in front of the doors of a legislative committee room, triggering complaints that they were blocking legislators and the public from participating in a legislative hearing.

They were arrested after protests from senators and some members of the public attending a committee hearing. The 13 were taken to the Salt Lake County Jail, where they were strip-searched and detained for several hours.

They are now charged with misdemeanors for "disrupting the Legislature."

But they were protesting the Legislature's decision to forgo any discussion or hearing on Sen. Stephen Urquhart's bill that would have protected gays and lesbians from employment and housing discrimination.

Polls have shown that more than 70 percent of Utahns favor having a law that protects gays and lesbians from employment and housing discrimination.

So who is disrupting the legislative process here? Is it the protesters demonstrating against the legislative inaction or the legislative leaders who decided in a closed meeting to censor the voice of the majority?

The excuse given by legislative leaders to squelch the bill promoted by Urquhart, a conservative Republican from St. George, was that the state leaders did not want to show animus toward the LGBT community pending the appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby's ruling that Utah's constitutional ban of same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

Utah leaders proved that excuse was disingenuous when many of them attended a rally arranged by the right-wing puppet masters of the Legislature to show support for Utah's ban on gay marriage while the appeal was still pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

While the howler monkeys on the political right ran around with Chicken Little-type squeals of "activist judges, activist judges," Becker was proudly at City Hall conducting marriages between same-sex couple before the Supreme Court granted a stay on Shelby's ruling, pending the appeal.

Now comes his city prosecutor, Padma Veeru-Collings.

Not only has she pursued misdemeanor charges against the Capitol 13, she pressed for felony charges to be filed.

The prosecutor asked Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill to screen the case for possible felony violations. Gill, because he is friends with some of the defendants and their attorneys, declared a conflict of interest and sent the case to Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, a Republican.

This is what Rawlings said in his letter to the Salt Lake City attorney's office, declining to file charges:

"Frankly, I am not sure why anyone would consider felony filings in this situation," he wrote. "My guess is folks are being overly cautious due to perceived political ramifications."