May 27, 2015 at 12:44 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Iowa group nixes anti-gay pledge for presidential hopefuls
NOM, National Organization for Marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Anti-gay protesters rally at a National Organization for Marriage event. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An anti-LGBT group in Iowa has announced this week it won’t require Republican presidential candidates to sign a pledge in Election 2016 to oppose same-sex marriage as part of their campaigns and administrations.

Bob Vander Plaats, chief executive officer of Urbandale, Iowa-based group known as The Family Leader, is quoted in the Des Moines Register on Tuesday as saying his organization has no plans at this time to ask presidential candidates to sign the pledge, although he didn’t completely close the possibility.

“One of the reasons why we are not doing it this time is that we saw it as more of a distraction” than as a benefit, Vander Plaats reportedly said. “We thought that there were other ways to do this. You know, our opponents want to pick apart things that we do. We want to make sure that the candidates are full-spectrum, pro-family conservatives.”

The Family Leader, which didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment, instead intends to sponsor a series of meetings with presidential candidates, including four regional leadership forums, a family leadership summit in Ames in July and a presidential forum in Des Moines in November.

In 2012, the anti-gay group asked presidential candidates to sign the pledge ahead of the Iowa caucuses, where traditionally has the evangelical movement has been influential in the Republican Party. The pledge was seen as influential because it set  the tone of the campaigns for presidential candidates in Iowa and beyond.

Among the 14 points of the pledge, in addition to personal fidelity to his or her spouse, were items in opposition to same-sex marriage:

* Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage – faithful monogamy between one man and one woman – through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.

* Earnest, bona fide legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) at the federal and state levels.

* Steadfast embrace of a federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in all of the United States.

* Fierce defense of the First Amendment’s rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech, especially against the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who went on to win the Republican presidential nomination, refused to sign the pledge in 2012. But former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who’s expected to announce his candidacy for 2016 on Wednesday in his home state, penned his name to the pledge four years ago.

Among the other reasons, the pledge was criticized for a line saying slavery had a disastrous impact on the United States, but a child born in slavery at that time was more likely to be born in families with wedded parents than a black child born today.

The Family Leader abandons it pledge among growing public support for same-sex marriage, even among the Republican Party. According to a Pew Research Poll in 2014, 61 percent of Republicans under 30 back same-sex marriage, but just 35 percent oppose it.

Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, said the decision of the Family Leader to abandon the pledge is a reflection of how the “the world is changing.”

“I applaud Mr. Vander Plaats’ decision,” Red Wing said. “I do not think that his deeply held beliefs about marriage have changed. He has, however, made a decision to reconsider how the Family Leader seeks to understand the position of candidates regarding these issues. It is a small but important decision, one that is in sync with the majority of Americans.”

In 2012, the Democratic Party endorsed same-sex marriage in its platform ahead of the convention in Charlotte, but the Republican Party endorsed a U.S. constitutional ban on same-sex marriage ahead of the convention in Tampa. Efforts led by the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry are underway to remove that language from the 2016 Republican Party platform over the course of this presidential cycle.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said the Family Leader’s decision to end its pledge may forecast a more gay-friendly Republican presidential primary.

“The run-up to the 2012 election fast became ‘The Primary of Pledges’ — none of which did anything to advance the viability of any GOP candidates for president,” Angelo said. “Hopefully this is a harbinger of things to come, and hints at an understanding that common-sense conservatism is what will win the day in 2016.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Well that’s a step in the right direction. I’m so tired of the definition of Religious Liberty that they espouse. A definition whereby they are free to require everyone else to respect their moral codes while they are free to persecute us for ours.

  • I think the fact about Romney is incorrect. As I recall, he *initially* refused to sogn it but later was forced to and did.

  • If this militant anti-gay pressure group were really “pro-family,” they wouldn’t be spending all their time trying to rip apart loving gay families and harm our children.

  • Well Mitt Romney was opposed to Marriage Equality when he was governor of Massachusetts in 2003. the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made it constitutional in 2003 and Congress ignored Romney’s request to put it to a popular vote in 2004 when Marriage Equality became the law.

  • These idiots keep forgetting that Marriage Equality does not force a religion to accept it but they think it is OK to force their religious beliefs on American citizens outside their religion which is not what Freedom of Religion means. Freedom of Religion means the right to choose a religion and practice those beliefs WITHIN that religion only and to not force those beliefs on others OUTSIDE that religion.

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