The campaign of Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney and four other GOP presidential candidates said this week they would not sign the bizarre pledge that at least two other GOP competitors did sign—a pledge that promises the candidate will vigorously oppose even “court-imposed recognition” of same-sex marriage.
The refusal of Romney and the other candidates does not signal a change in their opposition to same-sex marriage but does appear to suggest the GOP field may be re-evaluating how far it is willing to go to appease the party’s far right wing.
The pledge, called “The Marriage Vow,” is being circulated by a Christian-oriented political advocacy group—The Family Leader—that organized the successful recall of three Iowa Supreme Court justices because they ruled in favor of marriage equality.
The rambling two-page pledge, which includes two additional pages of footnotes, calls on candidates for state and federal offices to “vow” that they will not receive any campaign support “from any of us without first affirming this Marriage Vow,” that they will “uphold and advance the natural Institution of Marriage,” and remain faithful to their own spouses.
Among the 14 specific positions called for in the Marriage Vow is an “Earnest, bona fide legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) at the federal and state levels.” The 1996 federal law bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages and asserts that individual states can ignore marriage licenses issued by other states to same-sex couples. The Marriage Vow also requires candidates to give a “steadfast embrace” to a proposed amendment to the federal constitution to ban same-sex marriages nationally.
In an apparent reference to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Marriage Vow has a candidate promise support for “safeguards” for military personnel from “intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc.).” And one footnote contends there is no “empirical proof” that same-sex “inclinations are genetically determined, irresistible and akin to innate traits like race, gender and eye color…”
The Marriage Vow does not limit itself to gay-related issues. It also calls for candidates to say “robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security,” to support the “downsizing” of government, and to support the protection of women from “sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.”
A spokesperson for the Romney campaign told the Wall Street Journal, in an article published July 13, that Romney “felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.”
Jimmy LaSalvia, head of GOProud, a national conservative gay group, said Romney “should be praised for those comments, and for keeping his campaign focused on the issues that the American people care about the most – jobs and the economy.”
R. Clarke Cooper, head of Log Cabin Republicans, the national gay Republican group, said the pledge is “outside the scope of mainstream views.”
“Republican presidential candidates seriously seeking to win the general election are wise to avoid such an extreme position,” said Cooper. “Divisive and sometimes off the wall rhetoric on social issues will obscure a solid conservative fiscal message. Americans will not vote for somebody who has demonized their family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.”
Other Republican presidential candidates who have, thus far, balked at signing the pledge are former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, and for Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.
Johnson issued a statement calling the Marriage Vow “offensive to the principles of liberty and freedom on which this country was founded.” His website includes a video urging that it is un-American to discriminate against others “for the way they were born” or to use the federal government to “override the decisions of the states.”
Pawlenty posted a statement July 13 on his campaign’s website July 13, saying that, if elected president, “I would vigorously oppose any effort to redefine marriage as anything other than between one man and one woman.” But while he said he “deeply respects” the Family Leader commitment regarding marriage, he would “prefer to choose my own words” concerning marriage and would “respectfully decline” to sign the pledge.
Gingrich, in an appearance before the Family Leader July 11, reportedly said he would offer some edits to “sharpen” the pledge. The Des Moines Register said Gingrich said he wanted to review the document and was “working out some details.”
The only two Republicans to have signed the pledge – Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania – came under heavy scrutiny for having done so.
Bachmann and Santorum both had to address criticism for signing the Marriage Vow because the pledge originally included a sentence implying that African-American children were better off during slavery times than they are now, under the administration of the first African-American president. According to the Huffington Post, the pledge originally included this sentence: “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”
Huffington Post noted that the sentence has since been removed, and Bachmann told Fox News on July 12 that the sentence “was not on a document that I signed.”
“I just want to make it absolutely clear,” Bachmann told Fox News, “I abhor slavery. Slavery was a terrible part of our nation’s history. It’s good that we no longer have slavery. And under no circumstances would any child be better off growing up under slavery that that isn’t what I signed. That isn’t what I believe. What I signed was a statement that affirmed marriage as an important part of our nation. And I agree with that.”
The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement July 12 calling Bachmann’s signing of the pledge “a dangerous level of extremism.”
Bachmann, Santorum, and four other Republican presidential hopefuls have also signed the “Pro-Life Citizen’s Pledge,” promising that their nominees to the federal courts will be committed to “not legislating from the bench,” that their executive branch appointees (such as Cabinet positions) will be “pro-life,” and that they will “advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion.” The other four candidates include Gingrich, Pawlenty, and Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan.
All but McCotter, who just recently announced his candidacy for the nomination, spoke before the Family Leader’s “Presidential Lecture Series,” as did candidate Herman Cain. Romney did not.
The head of the Family Leader organization, Bob Vander Plaats, was the organizer of the successful campaign last year to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of the unanimous decision that the state constitution requires that same-sex couples be treated the same as heterosexual couples in the issuance of marriage licenses.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign posted its own petition for GOP candidates July 12, asking HRC supporters to sign a statement urging GOP presidential candidates to speak out publicly against therapy that alleges to change gays into straights.