Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has penned his name to an anti-gay marriage pledge committing him to back a U.S. constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage and defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
In a statement Thursday, the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, the group behind the pledge, announced Gingrich had joined other Republican hopefuls in signing the document.
Brian Brown, NOM’s president, crowed over securing the former U.S. House speaker’s name to the pledge.
“We commend Newt Gingrich for signing NOM’s presidential marriage pledge, committing himself to play a leadership role as president to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Brown said.
By signing the document, Gingrich promises upon election as president to undertake several initiatives against same-sex marriage:
• supporting congressional passage and sending to the states a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country;
• defending in court the Defense of Marriage of Act, a 1996 law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage;
• appointing judges and a U.S. attorney general who “will respect the original meaning” of the U.S. Constitution;
• supporting legislation allowing D.C. residents to vote on whether or not to abrogate the District’s same-sex marriage law;
• and appointing a presidential commission on “religious liberty.”
Other GOP candidates — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum — already penned their names to the pledge when NOM first announced it in August. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed the document later in August after he entered the presidential race.
Notably, when the other presidential candidates signed their names to the pledge, the purpose of the proposed presidential commission was to “appoint a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters.” But with the announcement of Gingrich signing his name to the pledge, the pledge has been changed to establishing “a presidential commission on religious liberty.” NOM didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on why the change was made.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement criticized Gingrich for aligning himself with NOM and said signing the document puts the candidate “on the wrong side of history.”
“Newt Gingrich’s signature to the NOM marriage pledge is just the latest indicator of how beholden the GOP presidential candidates are to anti-gay groups,” Solmonese said. “The tenets of the NOM pledge are rooted in hatred against LGBT Americans – by signing it, Gingrich and his fellow candidates are distancing themselves from mainstream opinion and taking an astonishingly extremist stance.”
The Gingrich campaign couldn’t be reached for comment on why he decided to sign the pledge.
Signing the NOM pledge is perhaps Gingrich’s strongest statement against marriage rights for gay couples since his candidacy began, but the former House speaker has long been an opponent of such rights. During his tenure as House speaker in the 1990s, Gingrich helped shepherd DOMA through Congress.
Gingrich has been in favor of a Federal Marriage Amendment since at least last year when U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. At the time Gingrich called on Congress “to reaffirm marriage as a union of one man and one woman as our national policy.” He has also been critical of Obama’s decision to drop the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
Just this week, Gingrich sent a letter to the FAMiLY LEADER, an anti-gay group in Iowa, affirming the mission of the organization and pledging to defend DOMA in court and support a Federal Marriage Amendment. In the same letter, he promises to remain faithful to his wife. He’s admitted to committing adultery before.
The letter was in response to the FAMiLY LEADER’s 14-point document known as “THE MARRIAGE VOW: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMILY.” Bachmann, Santorum and Perry have signed the vow. Gingrich said he supports the group’s mission with his letter, but didn’t actually sign the pledge.
Gingrich had initially declined to sign the document, saying some of the language was problematic. The pledge makes a reference to Sharia law and reportedly initially stated children born into slavery in the 1860s were more likely to be raised by two parents than a black child born today. The slavery reference has since been removed.
During an interview Thursday with the Des Moines Register, Gingrich said he would sign legislation reinstating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He also said he believes being gay is a combination of “genetics and environment,” adding people have a “significant range of choice within a genetic pattern.” Asked whether being straight is a choice, Gingrich said, “Look, people choose to be celibate, people choose many things in life.”
Jerame Davis, interim executive director for the National Stonewall Democrats, said Gingrich committing himself to defend marriage is “about the same as Cookie Monster pledging to protect the cookie jar.”
“He certainly has a lot of experience with marriage with three under his belt now, but that does not make him an expert on the subject,” Davis said. “It’s the height of hypocrisy for someone with his marital history to pledge to deny marriage equality to loving gay and lesbian couples.”
Gingrich makes these anti-gay commitments as he continues to enjoy front-runner status among the candidates seeking the Republican nomination to run for the White House. According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll published Wednesday, Gingrich leads Romney among Republican voters nationwide by 28 percent to 18 percent.