Conference coming to Utah to promote 'natural families'

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — With the support of the governor and pledged participation from the Mormon church, a conservative organization on Tuesday promoted its upcoming international conference in Utah as a mecca for supporters of the natural family dictated by God.

Leaders with the World Congress of Families said at a news conference in Salt Lake City that the fundamental base for good and moral societies is made up of families led by a man and a woman.

"That's the established definition that has prevailed throughout history and across cultures," said Janice Crouse, the conference executive director. "We're unapologetic in our support of the natural family, but that does not mean disrespect for anybody else."

The conference is the organization's first worldwide conference in the U.S. Same-sex families and LGBT advocates are welcome at the event, scheduled for Oct. 27-30 in Salt Lake City, Crouse said.

But national and local LGBT advocacy groups don't plan to attend, and they aren't happy Utah was chosen for the conference. A group called Restore our Humanity held a news conference Tuesday on the steps of the Utah Capitol, where they said the conference will infuse discrimination and bigotry into the community.

"We do not believe in an either-or solution. We are pro-family. We are pro all families," said Mark Lawrence of Restore our Humanity. "We are not counterfeit families. Our marriages are not counterfeit."

The World Congress of Families is on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups for its anti-LGBT views. The Human Rights Campaign, which supports gay rights and gay marriage, accuses the group of being a network of extremist groups that has been working to promote anti-LGBT rhetoric and legislation abroad.

But Crouse pushed back against those criticisms, saying the organization keeps a positive tone and focuses on highlighting the benefits for children who are raised in families led by a man and woman.

Gov. Gary Herbert wasn't in attendance at the World Congress of Families event, but he sent adviser Pamela Atkinson to show his support. Atkinson said Herbert believes the organization has made a huge contribution to educating people around the globe about the value of families.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has pledged to send a leader to speak at the conference, and attendees will get to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir while in Salt Lake City, said Crouse, a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush.

The Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families has about 40 partner organizations, including the Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America. They have held previous events in Madrid; Amsterdam; Warsaw, Poland; Mexico City; Geneva; Sydney, Australia; and Prague, Czech Republic. They expect several thousand attendees in Utah.

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