Deseret Morning News, Monday, January 30, 2006

Think tank touts 'natural' family

By Deborah Bulkeley Deseret Morning News

The Sutherland Institute envisions "a landscape of family homes, lawns, and gardens busy with useful tasks and ringing with the laughter of many children."

It's a vision the conservative-issues group sent last fall to 232 of Utah's city councils and the governing units of every county, said Paul Mero, institute president.

So far, Mero is aware of only one city that has embraced the resolution. The Kanab City Council voted earlier this month to adopt the "Resolution on The Natural Family: A vision for Utah."

The resolution states the "natural family is the fundamental unit of society" and encourages women to be "wives, homemakers and mothers," and men to be "husbands, homebuilders and fathers." It is leading up to a March 29 Utah regional meeting of the World Congress of Families, he said.

Before the vote, Kanab Mayor Kim Lawson compared his community and nation to a ship on the ocean.

"There are large waves coming towards us . . . the most serious of which (in my opinion) is denigration of the natural family as the fundamental unit of society," he told council members.

However, other city councils haven't adopted the message. North Salt Lake's City Council voted not to adopt the resolution last November, and Mero understands it was discussed by West Valley City and Mapleton officials, but no action was taken.

Mapleton City Council Member Jim Brady recalled that the resolution felt "exclusive," and didn't seem to take into account single-parent families, foster families or adoptive families. It also talked about the role of the father as the money-earner, and the mother in the home.

"Many of us probably agreed with it, but didn't feel it was appropriate to dictate those roles within the family unit," he said.

Mero, however, said he's not disappointed that the resolution isn't more widely accepted.

"We're not in the business of punching people around politically," Mero said. "We just wanted to give them the opportunity to discuss new ideas, or old ideas in a new way."

Quin Monson, assistant director for the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, said he's not surprised that most cities haven't considered the Sutherland resolution.

"A resolution supporting the family is laudable, but it doesn't really do anything," he said. City councils' key concerns are issues like "balancing the budget, making sure the streets are plowed," he said.

There is also the potential of divisiveness, even in communities where a majority of people agree with the resolution, Monson said.

"It may be that there are people who aren't in the ideal family situation, not by any choice of their own. If you are a city council member, why would you want to poke those folks in the eye?"

Kanab is a southern Utah city with a population of 3,564, according to the 2000 Census. It was also, as far as historians know, the nation's first city with an all-female city council in 1912, said Kylie Nielson Turley, who lectures for the Utah Humanities Council.

"Three of the five (councilwomen) had children while in office," Turley said. "They were wives, they were mothers. They didn't see it as you either stay home or you don't."

Turley said she's "a little uncomfortable" with the resolution, and not just because of the woman's role it presents. She pointed to the reference to homes with yards.

"It's not necessarily the lifestyle that everyone chooses," she said.

Turley's husband, Steve Turley, is a member of the Provo City Council, which hasn't taken up the resolution. Turley wondered what his council's five women members might think about it, and acknowledged his wife's reservations. "Are people going to be offended? Yeah," Turley said. Still, he added, "It looks like we missed an opportunity to do something that reflects our community."


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com


2006 Deseret News Publishing Company