Last July, Iowa’s FAMiLY Leader unveiled “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMILY,” a 14 bullet pledge presidential candidates will have to sign to secure any “future endorsement” from the organization and its influential leader, Bob Vander Plaats. The document asked candidates to vow “personal fidelity to my spouse,” claimed that same-sex marriage undermines the family, and contained a bizarre reference to slavery.
But during an appearance on MSNBC this morning, Vander Plaats brushed aside suggestions that Newt Gingrich’s multiple marriages and infidelities undermine social conservative beliefs. “He’s going to be transparent, he’s going to be humble, he’s going to come clean, he’s going to show a level of maturity that he’s learned from the situation and is ready to move on,” Vander Plaats told guest host Chris Cillizza, before suggesting that he forgives Gingrich for his marital sins:
VANDER PLAATS: Every candidate’s past is going to matter. But I believe for those of us who are social conservatives, people of faith, we also realize that the cornerstone at the hart of our faith is a thing called forgiveness. We all fall short, but we want to know, is he truly repentful, is he learned, is he ready to move on, is he more mature? And I believe he’s addressed this in a lot of situations and I think he will again on Saturday.
Vander Plaats was one of the first social conservative leaders to accept Gingrich’s apologies as he sought to consolidate Evangelical support in the run up to announcing his 2012 candidacy. The president of Iowa’s FAMiLY Leader assured the Los Angeles Times in March that Gingrich’s outreach has “won over pastors in the state,” adding “we also understand that we all fall short of the standards.”
But Vander Plaats’ “understanding” may have been influenced by more than the former speaker’s “open and transparent” approach. Last year, Gingrich offered his vocal support for Vander Plaats’ successful campaign to oust three of the nine Iowa Supreme Court justices who had unanimously ruled in favor of marriage equality and his associates bankrolled more than one-third of the $850,000 campaign to remove the justices. Gingrich also attended the FAMiLY Leader’s presidential forum on July 11th of this year, where he was asked if he was ready to commit to the group’s marriage pledge. Gingrich indicated that he was “gonna work with Bob and others to work through some things,” but has yet to publicly announce his support for the document.
Vander Plaats stood by his benefactor, telling the press that he was willing to overlook his marriage infidelities, while still insisting that gays and lesbians hurt the institution and “the family.” “This vow and this pledge is not intended to beat any person up, any candidate up for their past,” Vander Plaats said. “It’s about looking forward to the future and embracing the authenticity of one man, one woman marriage and its impact on the family.”