SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) – A showdown of sorts happening in Salt Lake City as the World Congress of Families – who advocates for the natural family – will meet next week. But, this week an entirely different conference is going on, The Inclusive Families Conference, one that advocates for all families.
These two groups differ on what defines a family.
“What we call the natural family, a man and a woman, married with their children, is the best and most sustainable unit on which to build societies,” says World Congress of Families Chairman Stan Swim.
While one of the Inclusive Families Conference organizer Mary Stanley said, “We probably just have a slightly different perspective, and possibly a broader definition of a family than the Congress has so, ours is a little more self determined.”
This weekend the Inclusive Families Conference will discuss several topics. At the forefront will be LGBT issues and discrimination.
“I have a natural family. They would on first glance think my family is a natural family but, they would also want my family to look like my partner and I look,” says Stanley, “I am married to a man and we have three children. I wonder if their definition of a natural family would be limiting in identifying their identity?”
The conference will also focus on minority issues, adoption, several presenters will be speaking on their research, attachments in the family, and talking about how to help families connect to create strong and supportive units. They will also have an open space for varying view points to discuss them and gain new knowledge.
The conference received the backing of The Human Rights Campaign and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker back in July, 2015, when the World Congress of Families had announced their desire to hold their conference in Salt Lake City. The HRC has been a harsh critic of the Congress and labeled them a hate group for their support of the passage of anti-LGBT legislation in countries around the world.
In July, Mayor Becker had this to say about the Inclusive Families Conference:
“We oppose the harmful and exclusionary actions and language of the World Congress of Families and their partners. The Inclusive Families Conference is an opportunity to stand beside our LGBT mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers to commit ourselves to the principle that all families deserve respect and love.”
The Congress has defended their stance saying they value all human life and recognize the importance of a family in all its form.
“It’s all a very desperate attempt at guilt by association and again, we’ve been very blunt about it. We reject violence against anyone for any reason,” says Swim.
“I think it comes in the difference in what we believe in our expression as human beings in terms of our concept of God and what his desire for us is as their creation and how we can achieve that…when it comes to issues of LGBT, I take point in it being a sin and an abomination…I don’t see in their programming where there is a dialogue towards understanding and accepting your family member who may be LGBT, understanding where a place of privilege might come from,” said Stanley.
The Inclusive Families Conference is being held at the University of Utah College of Social Work and runs Friday October 23rd and the 24th and will feature several guest speakers. The keynote speaker will be Steven Sprinkle, a Professor of Practical Theology and an advocate for the LGBT community.
The World Congress of Families will kick off next week beginning Tuesday, Oct. 27 and runs through Oct. 30th.
“I think it’s significant to hold it here in Salt Lake City because Utah has a great story to tell because of families. Our economy is strong because of family. Our whole culture here is about faith and family,” adds Swim.
The Conference expects to draw a crowd over 3,000 people. Among the speakers will be Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Elder M Russell Ballard.