Republican presidential candidates Herman Cain and Tim Pawlenty are the latest from a list of White House hopefuls who have responded to a request by a conservative Iowa group to sign its Marriage Vow Pledge. Both men have politely refused.
The document, posted on The FAMiLY Leader's website, calls on Republican presidential candidates to “solemnly vow to honor and to cherish, to defend and to uphold, the Institution of Marriage as only between one man and one woman.”
Cain and Pawlenty issued statements Wednesday explaining that, while they understand the spirit of the document and share some views expressed by The FAMiLY Leader, they have no interest in signing the group's Marriage Vow. The Iowa group describes the Marriage Vow as a “Declaration of Dependence upon marriage and family.”
The FAMiLY Leader, headed by President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats, describes itself as a “Christ-centered organization that will lead with humility and service to strengthen and protect the family.”
When Plaats unveiled the Marriage Vow on the steps of the Iowa State Capitol on July 7, he explained, “The FAMiLY LEADER views this pledge as an important component needed to inform constituents about the personal stand that each presidential candidate takes regarding marriage,”
He added, “We believe that the candidates’ positions on core values, such as marriage, correlate directly to his/her moral stances on energy issues, sound budgeting policies, national defense, and economic policies.”
On his website, Pawlenty explains that he is in agreement that voters have a right to know where candidates stand on the issues and how his or her faith and values might affect decision-making, but that he would rather uses his own words to discuss his stance on certain issues.
His statement reads:
"I deeply respect, and share, Bob Vander Plaatts' (sic) commitment to promoting the sanctity of marriage, a culture of life, and the core principles of the Family Leader’s Marriage Vow Pledge. However, rather than sign onto the words chosen by others, I prefer to choose my own words, especially seeking to show compassion to those who are in broken families through no fault of their own.”
The former Minnesota governor closes his statement saying, "I respectfully decline to sign the pledge."
He has also released a video of himself and his wife speaking “directly and openly” and their faith.
Cain expresses similar sentiment in a statement also released on his campaign website:
“I stand firmly with the FAMiLY Leader and share their vision and commitment to supporting traditional values in American society. I am, and will continue to be, an ardent defender of traditional marriage and will work to preserve and protect the sanctity of human life, which I believe begins at conception. While I commend their intent regarding the pledge, I believe my stated position encompasses their values without the need to sign the pledge.”
The pledge also requests that candidates who sign oppose abortion and help protect members of the U.S. Military and National Guard from “from inappropriate same-gender or opposite-gender sexual harassment, adultery or intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (sic).” The FAMiLY Leader's Marriage Vow also asks signers of the document to reject “Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control.”
A particular point of consternation among some critics was a statement on the Marriage Vow that indicated that African-American children born under slavery were better off because than those born today because they had a better chance of being raised by both parents.
The FAMiLY Leader’s first case in point to support their claim about the institution of marriage in America stated:
“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.”
After intense criticism and backlash, the group dropped that particular point from the Marriage Vow. The original document with the statement regarding slavery can still be found on certain news sites, such as Politico.com.
Gov. Mitt Romney and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson have also made it known that they will not be signing the controversial document.
Ron Paul is not going to sign the document “in its current form,” adviser Jesse Benton told Politico.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have both signed it.
When asked about the statement regarding slavery during an appearance Tuesday on Fox News', Bachmann said:
"That statement was not on a document that I signed." She added, "Apparently, the group had a statement about that in another part that they've now since removed and gotten rid of and disavowed. I just want to make it absolutely clear, 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, but that that isn't what I signed. That isn't what I believe. What I signed was a statement that affirms marriage as an important part of our nation, and I agree with that.”