Mitt Romney: I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history. I disagree with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution to make that expressly clear. Of course, basic civil rights and appropriate benefits must be available to people in nontraditional relationships, but marriage is a special institution between a man and a woman, and our constitution and laws should reflect that.
Newt Gingrich: The sacrament of marriage is based on a man and a woman, has been for 3,000 years, is at the core of our civilization and is worth protecting and upholding.
Rick Santorum: The Ninth Circuit decision yesterday said that marriage — if you believe in traditional marriage — the only reason that you can possibly believe that is because you are a bigot ... Your belief of marriage between a man and a woman is purely irrational based on hatred and bigotry. That’s what they just wrote. Four thousand years of human history. Irrational hatred and bigotry toward a group of people is the only reason you can be for marriage between a man and a woman.”
I usually start with the easy shots and work my way up to the more complicated stuff, but this time there is no complexity.
It is flat out not true that, for 3,000 years or 4,000 years, marriage has been between a (fully adult) man and a (fully adult) woman. There have been many child brides, and still are some today, but there have been child grooms as well, most famously Ptolemy XIII, who married his older sister (by 7 or 8 years, depending on the source) Cleopatra (yes, that Cleopatra) when he was just 10.
It is flat out not true that, for 3,000 years, marriage has been between a (singular) man and a (singular) woman. Polygamy, the marriage of a man to more than one woman, was common in the ancient world and was widely practiced by Mormons in the US not that long ago. Mitt Romney’s own great-something’th-grandfather fled to Mexico in 1884 to avoid US legal restrictions on polygamy. Polyandry, the marriage of a woman to more than one man, has been less common, but has existed in in a number of times and places, including the present day in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada.
It is likewise not true that marriage was, throughout recorded human history, either based on or between a man and a woman. Historically, marriage has most often been a matter between families or communities, negotiated and settled between parents, heads of households, or village elders.
And finally, it is flat out not true that marriage has been either a “special institution” or a sacrament for 3,000 years, particularly as the word 'sacrament' only applies to Christian practices and Christianity hasn't been around that long. In fact, in the early Christian church, marriage wasn't sacred at all, it was a private, civil matter and priests were forbidden from performing marriage ceremonies. This policy was not reversed until the 11th century.
Some days, it's just too easy.