Gov. Sam Brownback spoke before the World Congress of Families in Utah on Wednesday, sparking outcry from a national gay rights group.
The World Congress of Families has strongly opposed same-sex marriage. Brownback’s staff said his remarks to the international organization at its gathering in Salt Lake City focused on poverty.
“The Governor was invited to discuss strategies to lift individuals out of poverty including fostering family structure, superior education, and the dignity of work, as ways to put people on a path to a better life,” Eileen Hawley, spokeswoman for the governor, wrote in an e-mail.
Brownback has made reforming poverty policy a focus of his second term, helping push through a bill that established work requirements for welfare recipients and placed restrictions on where benefits money can be spent. Earlier this month, he floated the idea of a mentoring program aimed at lifting people out of poverty.
The governor’s office did not provide a full text of Brownback’s remarks.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights organization, criticized Brownback for speaking before the group, which is designated as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Ty Cobb, the organization’s director, issued a statement calling Brownback’s participation in the summit shameful and saying that the purpose of the meeting is to “share information about how to influence governments to adopt laws that would deny rights and even criminalize LGBT people and their families.”
The World Congress responds to questions about whether it is a hate group on its website.
“It’s a political weapon – a way to stigmatize family advocates and silence dissent. Opposing anything sexual radicals support, or supporting anything they oppose, is automatically called hateful,” says a statement on the group’s frequently asked questions page. “Thus, opposing ‘gay marriage’ is hateful; opposing abortion is hateful … noting that sexually transmitted disease is rampant among homosexuals is hateful.”