It has been my unique opportunity to serve as the Chairman of the Board for UFI for the past two years. The mission, history and talent within UFI are unlike any organization I have witnessed. The selfless dedication that consistently comes from every UFI volunteer is truly inspiring – and, coupled with the blessings of Providence, is the reason 2015 has been a year of significant forward progress in many of our efforts to protect the family and religious freedom.
While it is true that we are all learning to live in a world where same sex marriage is now legal in the United States, in so many other ways 2015 has been a year of miracles for UFI. Let me share with you our top 10 for 2015; five right now, and the remaining five in two weeks:
1. Work within the United Nations – The UN seems like ground zero for UFI and where our work coalesced almost 40 years ago. This has long been a cornerstone of our pro-family efforts as we work together with other like-minded NGOs and countries to craft effective pro-family language and policies while working together to block the efforts of the anti-family forces. Among other things, we were very successful this past year at the UN in:
• Training 75+ people in the UN pro-family coalition. This training then empowered these individuals to effectively fight policies that harm the family, while promoting pro-family policies both in New York and in their home countries.
• Presenting three extremely successful educational events to an international audience of UN visitors with over 150 in attendance. These “parallel events” are a time of great education and networking – and the groundswell of success with our events was truly humbling.
• Updating the UN Negotiating Guide and placing it in the hands of appreciative diplomats and ambassadors from over 20 countries. The UN Negotiating Guide is considered the “go to” resource for pro-family language at the UN.
All of these efforts continue to expand our influence on UN policy makers, as well as in-country lawmakers.
2. Work with Legislatures – One example is our Utah chapter team; they were at the Utah State Capitol virtually every day of the 2015 legislative session! They helped ensure the passage of seven bills that protect families, including a statewide ban on “powdered alcohol,” a dangerous new product that can be hidden in any drink or food.
3. Protecting Religious Freedom – United Families was in the forefront of the efforts in several states to defeat proposed laws and ordinances which would have sacrificed crucial religious freedoms by giving special protections to “sexual orientation & gender identity” (SOGI) in housing, employment, and most dangerously, in the area of “public accommodations.” Granting rights to one group of citizens at the expense of others is not being “fair to all.” The vast majority of these SOGI measures are too sweeping and will have severe unintended consequences on families.
4. World Congress of Families IX – The World Congress of Families (WCF9) took place for the first time in the United States this October. It brought together over 3,000 champions for the family from all over the globe. UFI leaders were instrumental in working behind the scenes with the WCF9 sponsor, the Sutherland Institute, to lay the ground work for the conference. Once the conference began, UFI was also a large part of the meeting with UFI leaders speaking across different days including our President, Laura Bunker, our VP for International Affairs Marcia Barlow, UFI Board member and VP of Operations, and Advisory Board member Dr. Timothy Rarick of BYU Idaho.
Our VP of Operations also helped organize a scholarship program for 250 Emerging Leaders and then was responsible for their entire five day program. This was the first time in WCF history that so many young adults were actively trained on family advocacy and she was instrumental in facilitating all of that.
5. Intern relationship deepens with BYU-Idaho and other universities – Our internship program, which began as a trickle three years ago, has now turned into a forceful river of talent. We have interns from BYU-Idaho, Patrick Henry College in Virginia, and George Wythe University in Utah serving alongside UFI mentors as educators at the UN, state legislatures, online forums, and other events.
From these five accomplishments alone, 2015 has been a very busy year for everyone involved in UFI. If these were our only “wins” for the year it would be a very good 12 months, but there are more to come. I can’t wait to share with you our remaining 5 for 2015 – and then wrap up discussing how this prepares us for 2016, and how you can help us go into the new year stronger than ever.
On this #GivingTuesday, we invite you to join our efforts with your financial contribution great or small.
Until next time, it is a privilege to stand with you as we work to protect the family together,
Chairman, United Families International