Utah governor defends his decision to speak at conference labeled ‘anti-gay hate group’

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SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert is defending his decision to speak at next week’s meeting of the World Congress of Families, which has been branded by some LGBT rights groups as “an anti-gay hate group.”

Speaking to reporters at his monthly news conference on KUED-TV, the governor said he welcomes a lot of conferences and conventions with different viewpoints to Utah.

“We’re a very welcoming state. We’ve got a lot of people here in our own community who have diverse points of views and ideas,” he said. “We don’t agree on everything, so it’s appropriate for the governor to go to this organization and say, ‘Welcome to the state of Utah. We hope you enjoy your stay here.'”

Governor Gary Herbert speaks to reporters at his monthly news conference on KUED-TV on Oct. 22, 2015. (Image courtesy KUED)

Governor Gary Herbert speaks to reporters at his monthly news conference on KUED-TV on Oct. 22, 2015. (Image courtesy KUED)

The governor questioned if the World Congress of Families’ reputation was deserved.

“We’ll have to see what they say. I’m not certain that everything that’s being alleged is, in fact, truthful,” Herbert said. “They’re welcome to our state just like others who have different points of view in other areas. We’re not all the same. We invite diversity and different opinions to Utah.”

The governor’s comments came the same day the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups planned a news conference to continue to call the World Congress of Families a “hate group.” The LGBT-rights group Human Rights Campaign was planning its own demonstration on Monday, and, while local LGBT-rights groups originally said they would ignore the event, protests are now expected outside the World Congress of Families IX meeting next week at the Grand America Hotel.

The World Congress of Families IX bills itself as an event where scholars, religious leaders and advocates will discuss issues that the group says relate to the "natural family." The organization has repeatedly pushed back against the accusations that it is a hate group, including a lengthy rebuttal to claims made by its critics.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were also slated to participate in the World Congress of Families IX.