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The nation's largest gay and transgender rights group on Tuesday criticized Utah Gov. Gary Herbert for his decision to speak at the international World Congress of Families event in Salt Lake City next month.

Herbert will "welcome hate to the state" if he gives an opening address at the international World Congress of Families gathering as scheduled, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said Tuesday.

HRC contends that WCF works in tandem with activists and organizations worldwide to promote anti-LGBT violence, policies and legislation, and believes Herbert should denounce such actions and cancel his appearance.

The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled WCF a hate group.

"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 him," said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global. "Hate is not an American value."

A schedule of events for the four-day gathering says Herbert will give an opening address when it opens on Oct. 27. The event is expected to draw about 3,000 to its seminars and panel discussions which will focus on providing tools for strengthening the family and protecting children, according to organizers.

Herbert's office confirmed that he will speak at the conference, and it released a statement regarding his stance on LGBT issues.

"Gov. Herbert's record is clear on the issue of nondiscrimination," spokesman Jon Cox said in the statement. "He is proud to have signed into law SB296, which provides unprecedented protections for religious groups and members of the LGBT community."

The governor was praised by LGBT activists in Utah, HRC and others in March for signing statewide nondiscrimination legislation that protects the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents in matters of housing and employment. The law also offers religious-liberty protections.

Janice Shaw Crouse, executive director of the WCF event, has said the HRC and the Southern Poverty Law Center have mischaracterized the family organization's mission and the work it does with others around the world.

She contends that the WCF gathers "scholars, government and religious leaders, health care professionals and advocates" to share research and discuss issues that affect the family, including health, pornography, addiction and family stability.

WCF supports the so-called "natural family" and believes that a man and a woman raising children is the best model for a healthy society.

Crouse said Utah's predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has long been a strong ally of the WCF. Mormon apostle M. Russell Ballard is slated to be a keynote speaker at the upcoming event.