Metro Weekly

HRC slams Utah governor for addressing “hate group”

Nation's top LGBT organization hits Gary Hebert's decision to speak to upcoming rally of the World Congress of Families

Herbert (Photo: 32ATPs, via Wikimedia Commons).
Herbert (Photo: 32ATPs, via Wikimedia Commons).

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) blasted Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) for agreeing to address an upcoming meeting of the World Congress of Families (WCF) — a group that espouses traditional views of “the natural family.”

Both Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes are expected to address WCF at the organization’s ninth annual meeting in Salt Lake City in October.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has branded WCF as a “hate group” for its anti-LGBT activism.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued a statement criticizing Herbert’s decision to address WCF IX. HRC claims that the World Congress of Families and people affiliated with WCF have ties to groups that have helped promote laws and policies that target LGBT people, such as Russia’s “anti-propaganda law” seeking to stifle any expression of support for LGBT rights, and Uganda’s anti-gay laws criminalizing homosexuality.

“It’s astonishing that the Governor of Utah would allow himself to be mentioned in the same sentence as the World Congress of Families — let alone be in the same room with them,” said Ty Cobb, the director of HRC Global. “To be clear: this is a hate group that’s literally convening thousands of extremists from around the globe to strategize and share information about their nefarious activism. Hate is not an American value, and we call on Governor Herbert to cancel his appearance.”

“WCF has praised Vladimir Putin as the standard-bearer for ‘morality,’ and honored a Nigerian activist who claims LGBT advocates conspire with the terrorist group Boko Haram with a ‘Woman of the Year’ award,” added Cobb. “It’s not surprising that they’ve asked her to speak this October. Their advocacy abroad harms LGBT people from Russia to Nigeria and beyond. Try as they may to mask their views, WCF’s positions and support for policies that target and marginalize LGBT people and incite animus around the world are undeniable.”

Herbert defended his decision to speak to the conference, issuing a statement to local Salt Lake City affiliate FOX 13 that also defended his record on LGBT nondiscrimination.

“Gov. Herbert’s record is clear on the issue of nondiscrimination,” Herbert’s spokesman, Jon Cox, said in a statement. “He is proud to have signed into law S.B. 296 which provides unprecedented protections for religious groups and members of the LGBT community.”

A spokeswoman for Reyes defended the attorney general’s presence at the conference, telling FOX 13 that he would be speaking about fighting human trafficking.

WCF IX has pushed back against accusations that it is a “hate group,” issuing a statement calling for “civil dialogue and saying they are the targets of radical gay rights groups that have misrepresented WCF in their literature. 

“One prominent example of these inaccuracies, among a multitude (as detailed in this report), is the claim that WCF was involved in promoting an anti-gay legislative initiative in Uganda,” the WCF statement reads. “Although WCF had absolutely no role in any aspect of that initiative, the SPLC used this false narrative as justification to place WCF on its list of ‘hate groups.’ Facts are important: The WCF has never met in Uganda. It has not worked in Uganda. And it maintains no relationship with the government of Uganda. Despite HRC representations to the contrary, Larry Jacobs, managing director of WCF, has never even been to Africa. The WCF rejects and condemns violence against anyone, in any country, as well as any law that would legalize such violence.

“HRC also makes numerous false statements regarding WCF’s efforts in Russia,” the statement continues. “The truth is WCF supports efforts in Russia, and anywhere else, to protect children from destructive activities and propaganda to engage in drug use, alcohol, pornography, gambling, prostitution and solicitations for ‘non-traditional sexual relations,’ which are dangerous, as shown by statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“…WCF recognizes the right to privacy for consenting adults in their relationships and practices, insofar as those practices do not threaten the welfare of life, children, and the natural family,” the statement adds. “WCF is working to strengthen families where the natural and unique complementarity of a mother and father provide essential contributions to the psychological, physical, intellectual, and spiritual development of children, as well as a cohesive and dependable fabric upon which communities and societies at large can thrive.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!