Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bachmann and Santorum Sign "The Marriage Vow"

The Family Leader, an Iowa-based right-wing organization headed by Bob Vander Plaats, released a pledge entitled "The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family." By signing the pledge, political candidates vow to uphold a list of policy pledges related to marriage, reproductive rights, women, the military, and the economy. Given the controversial content of the document, supporters of LGBT rights and women's rights should take note.

"The Marriage Vow" celebrates the institution of heterosexual marriage, which it insists protects children, "vulnerable" women, the "rights of fathers", and the liberties of citizens. Already, the document has cast marriage in heteronormative and hierarchical terms, claiming that marriage protects "vulnerable" women and endowes fathers with certain rights. Along these lines, "The Marriage Vow" argues that protections for women and children have allegedly deteriorated as marriage has supposedly become devalued in our society. Among the examples of supposed "debasement" of marriage it cites are adultery, "quickie" divorces, domestic violence, cohabitation, and beliefs that "non-heterosexual inclinations" are genetically determined and therefore immutable (!).

These claims made my hair stand on end. First, evolving notions of marriage and sexuality are not undermining protections for women and children. Rather, protections for women and children have increased, not decreased, over the past few decades, in the form of domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, child protective services, children's advocacy centers, laws criminalizing marital rape, mandatory reporting policies, awareness-raising campaigns about family violence, etc. Second, lumping nightmares such as spousal abuse together with cohabitation and evolving notions of sexual orientation is beyond tasteless, belittling LGBT people and victims of domestic violence. What does it say about the authorship's priorities when streamlined divorce laws, cohabitation, and enlightened attitudes about LGBT sexuality are held to be on the same moral level as domestic violence?

Several passages in "The Marriage Vow" urge candidates to oppose LGBT equality and maintain a heteronormative vision of marriage. Candidates who sign the document vow to uphold marriage as between one man and one woman, support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as such, oppose any effort to recognize same-sex unions, and advocate for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). To boot, signatories vow to defend the First Amendment rights of those who defend "faithful heterosexual monogamy", which I am interpreting to mean those who decry LGBT rights.

The documents' approach to women revealed volumes about the authorship's attitudes toward gender, sexuality, and reproduction. Signatories vow to protect women and the "innocent fruit" of sexual union from trafficking, prostitution, pornography, promiscuity, infanticide, and abortion. To clump horrors such as sex trafficking together with promiscuity and reproductive rights such as abortion struck me as both absurd and revealing. Additionally, signatories vow to reject Sharia law as an "anti-woman" and "totalitarian" system (but not right-wing Christian dominionism, which I found darkly humorous). Moreover, the document praises "robust" reproduction as beneficial to U.S. economic and demographic security, which Vyckie Garrison at Politicus USA argues is a call for women's self-abnegation through prolific childbearing.

The document also urges signatories to terminate military policymakers who would "expose American wives and daughters" to sexual abuse or torture by the enemy in combat roles. In other words, the pledge frowns upon placing female soldiers in combat alongside their male counterparts, citing fear of mistreatment. (Apparently male soldiers are never mistreated by the enemy in war.)

The race-related content of "The Marriage Vow" sparked a media firestorm. The July 7th version of the document contained a passage lamenting that a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by both parents than an African-American child born today. When I read that passage, I was speechless. Was the document implying that enslaved black children were better off than black children today? Had the authorship forgotten the horrors of American slavery -- commodification of human beings, forced labor, forced ignorance, whippings, rapes, the rupturing of entire families through slave trading -- in their determination to cast single-parent families in a negative light? To call the passage insensitive would be a gross understatement.

After a public uproar, the Family Leader apologized and removed the slavery passage from "A Marriage Vow", according to the Washington Post.  However, the content that remains is still controversial, given its stance on LGBT rights, women's rights, and a host of other issues.

According to the Huffington Post, the pledge has been signed thus far by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota) and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. However, former New Mexico governor and Republican presidential hopeful Gary Johnson has rejected the pledge as "offensive". (Hat tip to Box Turtle Bulletin.) Whether other GOP candidates sign the pledge or reject it will say volumes about their political vision.


For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Politics Plus: Bachmann Batsh*t on Slavery, Sex, and Jobs

Think Progress: THE FAMiLY LEADER Drops 'Misconstrued' Slavery Language from Pledge Following Uproar

Politico: Conservative group backtracks on marriage pledge slavery language

Huffington Post: The Family Leader Drops Controversial Section Concerning Slavery From 'Marriage Vow' Pledge

The Atlantic Wire: A Rainbow of Anger Over Bachmann's 'Marriage Vow'

Des Moines Register: Santorum is Second to Sign Fidelity Pledge

8 comments:

  1. I read that document and when it got to the part about Sharia law, I laughed so hard. That they fail to see the irony in making the "anti-women, anti-human rights" Sharia law a bad thing, but the rest of their document a good thing reveals their entire mindset. White fundamentalist Christians: good, anyone else: bad.

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  2. Reverend -- Ain't that the truth. The irony is mindboggling.

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  3. I admit I'm curious how the military works into this pledge, but am not sure I want to actually read it. (I'm about to eat breakfast.)

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  4. Donna -- I was referring to the document's passage on women in the military.

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  5. Cognitive Dissenter -- You and me both!

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  6. Nice to remove the slavery clause. Now, if they would just remove their attempt to enslave women to their reproductive organs...

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  7. Paul -- I couldn't agree more.

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