As the state and nation debates the definition of marriage, a national marriage conference is being held this week in Missouri. It’s the 2004 National Marriage and Family Conference beginning Thursday at Lincoln University in Jefferson City featuring such nationally known speakers as Author Gary Chapman, humorist Deadra Stanton and therapist couple Steve and Kathy Brody. National Marriage Encounter executive Gene Vander Heyden says this conference will focus on the practical aspects of strengthening marriages, not the political arguments over same-sex marriage. Organizers scheduled this conference for Jefferson City three years ago – long before the state began the debate on the same-sex marriage ban that will be decided by voters next month. Late registrations are accepted. There is a fee charged.