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The little Utah tourist town of Kanab is a gateway to some of the biggest views in Red Rock country. Nearby are Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks as well as other stunning landscapes that formed the backdrop for TV's Gunsmoke and The Lone Ranger. "Our slogan has been, 'Come and play in our backyard,'" Kane County tourism director Ted Hallisey said.
But some tourists may be passing up Kanab this year. In January the city council in the overwhelmingly Mormon community of 3,600 unanimously passed a resolution in favor of the "natural family," consisting of a working husband, a stay-at-home wife, and a "full quiver of children."
The resolution struck some as homophobic and sexist and stirred talk of a Kanab tourism boycott, which won the endorsement of syndicated travel columnist Arthur Frommer. "I think they know perfectly well this is a smokescreen for discriminating against gays," the New York City travel guru and guidebook author said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
The six-member city council in Kanab is the only Utah governmental entity to pass such a resolution, which was sent to cities all over Utah by the Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank. Sutherland president Paul Mero said that studies show community problems such as crime, violence, and poverty increase when family structures break down.
Frommer mentioned the resolution and the rumblings of a boycott in his March 2 travel column. "If you value freedom, you may want to take a similar step, because voting with your money does deliver results," he told readers.
Kanab's business owners are taking note. "It's not a theoretical. This affects my business, and it's hard to make a living in Kane County," said Victor Cooper, owner of the Rocking V Cafe, some 300 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Kane County's tourism bureau has been flooded with more than 300 letters, calls, and e-mails from individuals who say they plan to either cancel visits to Kanab or will avoid spending their money in Kanab on visits to the region. "We're not panicking, but we're probably monitoring it as close as anybody," Hallisey said.
He said the county gets about a quarter-million visitors a year, with the tourism season running from May to October, and collected nearly $350,000 in hotel room tax revenue in 2005, a 15% increase from the year before.
Mayor Pro Tem Terril Honey, the owner of Honey's Jubilee Foods grocery store, said the council never expected people to see the resolution as discriminatory. "The resolution is saying that the best way to raise a child is in a family with a mother and a father. I think the intent is a good intent," he said.
Councilwoman Carol Sullivan said she now regrets her vote and proposed a repeal last month but got no support. Some residents are pressuring the council to change its mind and have started an Internet petition drive. A group of business owners designed an "Everyone Welcome Here" logo and window sticker they hope businesses in Kanab will display.
Arizonan Al Moss has been a frequent visitor to Kanab, often as part of a touring classic car club from his hometown of Sedona. "I can't understand in this day and age how a group could even think about something like this," he said. "I personally won't go back, and I think there will be a lot of people like me who will see the problem." (AP)
Utah city takes
heat for "natural family" resolution