WSJ: Romney, Johnson Reject Anti-Gay-Marriage Pledge

This post first appeared online at the Wall Street Journal on July 13, 2011.

Romney, Johnson Reject Anti-Gay-Marriage Pledge

Bob Vander Plaats, an influential Iowa conservative who unveiled his anti-gay-marriage pledge last week, may have gone too far.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney outright rejected the “Marriage Vow” written by Mr. Vander Plaats and his advocacy group, The Family Leader. It asks candidates to oppose gay marriage, pornography and Sharia Law, among other things. The pledge drew fire for originally suggesting African American children were better off under slavery, a sentence since removed.

“Mitt Romney strongly supports traditional marriage,” Mr. Romney’s spokeswoman Andrea Saul, said in an email. “But he felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.”

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a libertarian, also refused to sign it, calling it “offensive.”

In a statement, he said that “While the Family Leader pledge covers just about every other so-called virtue they can think of, the one that is conspicuously missing is tolerance. In one concise document, they manage to condemn gays, single parents, single individuals, divorcees, Muslims,  gays in the military, unmarried couples, women who choose to have abortions and everyone else who doesn’t fit in a Norman Rockwell painting.”

A spokesman for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, said the pledge had a long list of problems and declined to sign it unless it was changed.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) have signed it. Other GOP presidential hopefuls haven’t released their positions, and it’s unclear who would embrace it.  A spokesman for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is also courting Iowa’s social conservatives, did not respond to questions about the pledge.

Mr. Romney has been trying to keep his focus on the economy, and hasn’t been making a full-court press to win the Iowa caucuses, which are dominated by social conservatives.

Last month, Mr. Romney declined to sign Susan B. Anthony List’s anti-abortion pledge, saying it was too limiting and could lead to defunding of veterans hospitals. When he was asked about reinstating a ban on gays serving openly in the military at a candidate debate in South Carolina, he at first responded, “Well, one, we ought to be talking about the economy and jobs.” He added that the policy, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” should have remained in place until the U.S. ends its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Vander Plaats told Washington Wire on Wednesday that the pledge won’t be altered.

“We would not change the Marriage Vow. We put a lot of work into it,” said Mr. Vander Plaats, adding that it was meant to prevent candidates from changing their positions over the next 18 months. He chided Mr. Romney for not providing specific complaints.  “If you’re saying that’s objectionable, I just want to know what it is,” he said.

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