Newt Gingrich promises "fidelity to my spouse"

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, left, was married to second wife Marianne Ginther when he began an affair with a much younger Congressional staffer Callista Bisek, who became his third and current wife. His first wife, Jackie Battley, divorced him after learning of his affair with Marianne Ginther. Citizens United Productions

Citizens United Productions

Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich - who has acknowledged marital infidelity in the past - pledged in a written statement to an Iowa social conservative group to "uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others."

Gingrich's statement to the Family Leader comes in lieu of signing the group's "Marriage Vow," which opens with the words "Faithful monogamy is at the very heart of a designed and purposeful order" and asks candidates to appoint "faithful constitutionalists" to the federal bench and reject Sharia law. Three Republican candidates - Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former Senator Rick Santorum -- have signed the pledge.

Gingrich, who has been married three times, was criticizedin Saturday's Republican presidential debate over his personal history, with Perry saying, "I've always kind of been of the opinion that if you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner."

Gingrich said at the debate that personal fidelity is a "real issue" and said he has "made mistakes at times."

"But I'm also a 68-year-old grandfather," he added. "And I think people have to measure who I am now and whether I'm a person they can trust."

Gingrich's statement to the Family Leader did not amount to signing the pledge, but the group told CBS News that his written response "affirm[ed] the principles in the pledge." He had previously said he would not sign the document without changes to some of the language.

Gingrich's statement to the group also included a promise to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and which the Obama administration has chosen to stop defending in court. Gingrich also said he supported sending a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage to the states.

"I will support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification," he said. "I will also oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to define marriage in any manner other than as between one man and one woman."

Gingrich also said in the pledge that "life begins at conception," vowing to "enact legislation that provides greater protections for the unborn." And he promised to "promote legislation that protects the right to conscience for healthcare workers so they are not compelled to perform abortions and other procedures that violate their religious teachings."

Gingrich's full statement is below. In response to it, influential Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats said in a statement, "We are pleased that Speaker Gingrich has affirmed our pledge and are thankful we have on record his statements regarding DOMA, support of a federal marriage amendment, defending the unborn, pledging fidelity to his spouse, defending religious liberty and freedom, supporting sound pro-family economic issues, and defending the right of the people to rule themselves."

To Bob Vander Plaats and the Executive Board of The FAMiLY LEADER:

I appreciate the opportunity to affirm my strong support of the mission of the FAMiLY LEADER by solemnly vowing to defend and strengthen the family through the following actions I would take as President of the United States.

Defending Marriage. As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military. I will also aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal and state courts. I will support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification. I will also oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to define marriage in any manner other than as between one man and one woman. I will support all efforts to reform promptly any uneconomic or anti-marriage aspects of welfare and tax policy. I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.

Defending the Unborn. I believe that life begins at conception. On day one of my administration, I will sign an executive order reinstating Ronald Reagan's Mexico City policy that prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions overseas. I will also work with Congress to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood so that no taxpayer dollars are being used to fund abortions but rather transfer the money so it is used to promote adoption and other pro-family policies, and enact legislation that provides greater protections for the unborn.

Defending Religious Liberty. As President, I will vigorously defend the First Amendment's rights of religious liberty and freedom of speech against anyone who would try to stifle the free expression of believers. I will also promote legislation that protects the right to conscience for healthcare workers so they are not compelled to perform abortions and other procedures that violate their religious teachings.

Defending Against Debt. As President, I will undertake vigorous policies to maximize capital investment and job creation, along with common sense entitlement reforms, to dramatically turn around the nation's fiscal situation. Building upon the same principles I championed during my four years as Speaker, when we reduced the national debt by over $400 billion and dramatically reduced the national debt as a percentage of the GDP, we will reduce the enormous burden upon American families of the public debt and unfunded liabilities.

Defending the Right of the People to Rule Themselves. Today, as federal courts have intervened in sectors of American life never before imaginable, including the intervention in the definition of marriage as well as when unborn life can be protected under the Constitution, the public has increasingly come to view them as an usurpative device for unelected rulers. This abuse of power and loss of public confidence amounts to a constitutional crisis. I believe the executive and legislative branches each have an independent responsibility to interpret the Constitution, and in those rare circumstances when they believe the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have engaged in a serious constitutional error, they can choose among an array of constitutional powers to check and balance the courts. As President, I will nominate for federal judgeships, including justices of the Supreme Court, only those individuals who are committed to an originalist understanding of the Constitution. Judges with an originalist understanding will subordinate themselves to the meaning of the Constitution as it was intended by the framers, and not substitute their own judgments about its meaning. The inherent judicial self-restraint that comes from an originalist approach to the Constitution offers the best long-term assurance that federal judges will not exceed their powers and trample on individual liberties. I will also work with Congress to use the Constitutional means available to reassert the right of the elected branches of government to defend their understanding of the meaning of the Constitution, including limiting the jurisdiction of the federal courts to decide on certain issues, when they believe the federal courts have engaged in a serious constitutional error.

Sincerely,

Newt Gingrich

Full CBS News coverage: Newt Gingrich

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