Texas Gov. Rick Perry became the third Republican GOP hopeful to sign a pledge to protect traditional marriage on Monday.
The Family Leader, one of the co-host of this past weekend’s Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines, has asked all presidential candidates of both parties to formally commit to protecting the Defense of Marriage Act along with a commitment to appoint “faith constitutionalists” to the federal courts.
Bob Vander Plaats, who heads up the pro-family Iowa group, said only candidates who sign the pledge would be considered for the group’s endorsement. Perry joins Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in officially recognizing the pledge.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has indicated he would sign the pledge if he could “tweak” the document. The Perry campaign has confirmed he has signed the pledge as is, with no revisions.
Introduced earlier this year, the marriage pledge created some controversy over a reference to slavery and the well-being of blacks under the nation’s welfare system. After several candidates, including Bachmann, complained about the language, it was removed.
However, some feel the Perry’s signature on the document is too little, too late.
“He is trying some Hail Mary passes late in the game,” Republican strategist and one-time Romney adviser Doug Gross told The Des Moines Register. “This one probably won’t work since he is appealing to the same voters as are a number of the other candidates when he should be focusing on a core group who don’t want Romney and have nowhere else to go.”
Earlier this summer, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign declined to sign the pledge, making him the first Republican to reject the document. Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, said in a written statement that the pledge “contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.” She also said that Romney “strongly supports traditional marriage.”
Romney, whose lack of attendance at this past weekend’s event along with his refusal to sign the marriage pledge, is seen by many social conservatives as an indication he is not seeking the evangelical vote.
Rep. Renee Schulte (Cedar Rapids), a Republican House member, is helping spearhead the Romney campaign in Iowa and was asked if she felt Romney’s reluctance to sign the marriage pledge or his absence at the Thanksgiving Family Forum would hurt him in the Hawkeye state.
“No, in either case,” said Schulte. “As for the pledge, had it been a simple pledge, he would have signed it. I think people know where he stands on the [marriage] issue.”
Same-sex marriage has proven to be a volatile issue in the presidential campaign, even in the GOP ranks. Former New Mexico governor and Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson said, “This ‘pledge’ is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn’t fit into a particular definition of ‘virtue.’”
Johnson, who campaign has been almost nonexistent, usually comes in at under one percent in most national polls.
Julie Summa, a spokesperson with The Family Leader, said the pledge has been sent to all the remaining candidates.