Gingrich won’t commit to controversial Family Leader pledge

BY IAN STEWART | JULY 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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During his visit to the University of Iowa on Monday, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich avoided committing to a “Marriage Vow” that has drawn national attention.

GOP candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have alredy signed their names to the pledge — which calls for candidates to promise to reject Sharia Islam, commit to downsizing the federal government, and uphold the Defense of Marriage Act.

Though Gingrich was the guest of the Family Leader, an Iowa-based conservative Christian group that developed the pledge, he said he wasn’t yet prepared to sign on to the group’s priorities.

The document covers a wide range of socially conservative points, but it’s the first part — pledging “personal fidelity to my spouse” — that likely presents the biggest problem for the former U.S. House speaker. Gingrich has been divorced twice, and he has admitted to cheating on previous spouses, leaving him hesitant to put his name on the vow.

Gingrich said he hopes to “develop the specifics I’m comfortable signing,” adding that his staff would work with the Family Leader to find a compromise on the document.

The vow doesn’t have complete support even in the Republican Party.

“I wouldn’t sign onto that,” said Bill Keettle, the former head of the Johnson County Republican Party. “I think it’s an overreach.”

Nationally, the pledge has garnered more heat. GOP caucus contender Gary Johnson refused to sign, calling the pledge offensive and un-American. Additionally, many national commentators have criticized the group for including a bit about black children being more likely to live in two-parent homes during slavery.

Still, Bob Vander Plaats, a former Iowa gubernatorial candidate and the head of the Family Leader, showed little sign the group plans to step back from the pledge. He defended Gingrich — past infidelity and all — before the politician’s speech in Iowa City.

“First off, we’re a Christian organization,” said Vander Plaats, who led a 2010 charge to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who helped legalize gay marriage. “We believe in redemption … Mr. Gingrich has been up front and transparent, and we believe he’s really committed to his wife.”

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