Kanab's 'natural family' decree spawns tourism backlash
KANAB - Ted Hallisey's job is to turn tourists on to Kane County, but Kanab's endorsement of a "natural-family resolution" is turning some visitors off.
"Recently read about your vote to censure anyone other than . . . heterosexual, childbearing couples. Even though I fit that bill, I am so disturbed by your actions that I am rescheduling my travel plans to avoid Kanab completely," reads one e-mail sent to the city.
"Y'all are silly," reads another e-mail, obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through the Government Records Access and Management Act.
And a northern Utah woman vows to stop visiting Kanab because the resolution supports "prejudice, discrimination and subtle social cruelties."
Such responses from potential hotel-staying, souvenir-buying, restaurant-dining visitors worry Hallisey, executive director of the Kane County Office of Tourism and Film Commission.
"With 700 of 1,000 [hotel] rooms in the county here in Kanab, it's a viable tourist location," he says.
The nonbinding resolution - drafted by the conservative Sutherland Institute - calls marriage between a man and woman "ordained of God" and urges homes to be open to a "full quiver of children." It also encourages young women to become "wives, homemakers and mothers" and young men to grow into "husbands, home builders and fathers."
Ever since Kanab's City Council unanimously adopted the nonbinding document last month, the topic has been issue No. 1 in this scenic southern Utah city. Letters filled four pages of the Feb. 1 Southern Utah News.
"How mean-spirited, how sad," writes Kanab resident Vicky Cooper. "We are not all the same. Some of us don't have a quiver of children because we see problems from overpopulation and choose not to add to them."
Says Greg Metcalf of Kanab: "I would showcase my heroic, widowed, working mother's 'unnatural' family with the council's natural family anytime."
Dixie Brunner, the paper's publisher and editor who penned an editorial condemning the council's action, says she expects more letters on the issue.
The resolution is a "slam to everybody, including those who fit their definition of a natural family," Brunner says. "We're becoming a diverse community so there are more who feel comfortable about speaking out."
That includes those who support the resolution.
"I salute Mayor Kim Lawson and the council," writes Katie Thomas, who noted she came to the area 32 years ago from California seeking a quieter way of life. "Many of those who are offended and opposed to the proclamation . . . may have an agenda that would bring the kind of changes that could redefine all that we came for."
The Rev. Doug Hounshell says he "thanks God for a community that doesn't think it has to be 'gay-friendly.' "
"We don't mean to be mean-spirited," says Hounshell, pastor of Cliffview Chapel Baptist Church in Kanab. "But the message to a homosexual might be that this is probably not the friendliest town for that type of thing."
Such an unwelcome greeting is what bothers Jane Marquardt, chairwoman of Equality Utah in Salt Lake City.
"It's unfortunate to see such hateful behavior published in the name of a religion," Marquardt says. "I'm sure he represents just a small number that is supposed to be about love."
Councilman Terril Honey acknowledges some residents have complained to him about the resolution, but adds there are no plans to rescind it.
"Most who have talked to me have some pain from a past experience that has resurfaced [because of the resolution] and that is too bad," Honey says. "Our intent was for a good purpose. That Kanab is a good, wholesome place to live."
But Hallisey fears tourists may not see Kanab as a wholesome place to visit . He got an e-mail from a Canadian woman who says the resolution prompted her to change her family's vacation plans to Colorado.
"Shame on you," she writes.
l Marriage between a man and a woman is "ordained of God."
l Homes should be open to a "full quiver of children."
l Young women are seen as "growing into wives, homemakers and mothers and . . . young men [as] growing into husbands, home builders and fathers."