Conservative ‘marriage pledge’ group apologizes for slavery reference

A socially conservative group has apologized for including a passage about slavery in a pledge it asked the Republican candidates to sign as a prerequisite for the group’s endorsement in the presidential race.

Rep. Michele Bachmann had been the first GOP hopeful to sign “The Marriage Vow,” which included in the introduction a section that lamented that “the Institution of Marriage in America is in great crisis.”

One piece of evidence it offered was the claim that a black person born into slavery “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.”

The suggestion that African American babies may have somehow been better off under slavery touched off sharp criticism from liberals and commentators, who noted that U.S. slaves had been forbidden from marrying and were often sold at auction and separated from their family members.

On Saturday, in a note forwarded to reporters by the Bachmann campaign, the group, the Family Leader, apologized for the reference.

“After careful deliberation and wise insight and input from valued colleagues we deeply respect, we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued,” said Julie Summa, a spokeswoman for the Family Leader. “We sincerely apologize for any negative feelings this has caused, and have removed the language from the vow.”

The primary goal of the document was to affirm “that ALL of us must work to strengthen and support families and marriages between one woman and one man,” the statement said.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum also signed the pledge, which garnered headlines not only for the slavery passage but also because of its suggestion that homosexuality was not innate and may be a public health hazard. It also condemned pornography and demanded that signatories reject Sharia law.

Earlier Saturday, Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart said that the Minnesota congresswoman had only endorsed the 14-point “candidate vow,” which did not include the slavery passage.

However, the entire document was only four pages, including two pages of footnotes, and the slavery section was the first bullet point within the preamble.

The Family Leader is led by Bob Vander Plaats, an unsuccessful GOP candidate for governor in Iowa and a prominent Christian conservative leader in the state.

Sandhya Somashekhar is a health reporter for the Washington Post.
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