DES MOINES, Iowa, July 14, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and others have rejected a pledge that would have committed them to use the leadership of the presidency to oppose same-sex “marriage.” Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum both chose to sign it.

The strongly-worded pledge, known as “The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family,” is being sponsored by the Iowa-based social conservative group, the Family Leader.

The Marriage Vow commits a candidate to be faithful to his of her spouse, uphold the right to life, the dignity of marriage, and oppose “all forms of pornography and prostitution.”

However, controversy has dogged the document due to its wording, including a preamble that had originally observed that “a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.” However, a resulting furor over that clause led the conservative group to remove it from the pledge. 

The pledge was swiftly signed by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota (who said the slavery clause was not in it when she signed) and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

The Associated Press reports that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has flatly rejected the pledge, although a spokeswoman has said that the candidate “strongly” supports the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, told the AP that the Marriage Vow “contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.” The AP did not mention if Saul identified any particular provision.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday that while does “deeply respect, and share” the principles contained in the Marriage Vow, he had decided to “respectfully decline” to sign the pledge in favor of using his own words.

“Rather than sign onto the words chosen by others, I prefer to choose my own words, especially seeking to show compassion to those who are in broken families through no fault of their own,” he said in a written statement.

Pawlenty said he “unequivocally” supports marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and would work “vigorously” against efforts to change that.

Herman Cain also released a statement saying that while he “firmly” supports the Family Leader and their vision, he believes his public position “encompasses their values without the need to sign the pledge.”

“I am, and will continue to be, an ardent defender of traditional marriage and will work to preserve and protect the sanctity of human life, which I believe begins at conception,” he said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also declined to sign the pledge. Politico reports that the Gingrich campaign had problems with the language and according to one spokesman “offered to work with The Family Leader on a more focused message.”

But declining to sign the Marriage Vow could put Gingrich in trouble with some social conservatives in Iowa. Radio Iowa reports that Gingrich was asked about his poor personal performance in marriage at a meeting with conservatives in Pella, Iowa. The Speaker has divorced two wives in his lifetime and married his third, Callista, after carrying on a near-decade long affair. Gingrich has referenced his personal conversion to Catholicism a few years ago as a turning point in his life, but he told the Pella crowd that voters should ask themselves if he is a person “who does what he believes in” based on his public record.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, has also declined to sign the pledge, citing problems with the language.