Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) speaks in Washington on April 29, 2010.
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Penn. Rep. Charlie Dent: Don’t ‘stand in the way’ of gay marriage

Nearly a week after Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional, a Pennsylvania Republican congressman has come out as a supporter of marriage equality.

Rep. Charlie Dent said in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday that “life is too short … to stand in the way of” same-sex marriage.

“Years have passed, and the American public’s views on this issue have shifted. So have mine,” the congressman wrote in an official statement. “Life is too short to have the force of government stand in the way of two adults whose pursuit of happiness includes marriage.”

A federal judge struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage last Tuesday, the same ban Dent voted for as a state representative in 1996. Shortly after the judge’s announcement, Dent released a statement congratulating gay couples.

Dent cited District Judge John E. Jones’s ruling in Wednesday’s statement.

“Fundamentally, this is about equality,” the statement read. “As Federal District Judge John Jones – a man for whom I have great respect and have known for 20 years – wrote, ‘in the sixty years since Brown was decided, ‘separate’ has thankfully faded into history, and only ‘equal’ remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.’”

“As a Republican, I value equality, personal freedom and a more limited role for government in our lives,” Dent’s statement continued. “I believe this philosophy should apply to the issue of marriage as well.”

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has said he will not appeal the district ruling, which will mean that same-sex marriage will remain legal in the state. Corbett, a Roman-Catholic, has said that marriage should be “between one man and one woman,” but that he hopes same-sex relationships continue to “be treated with respect.”

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, along with many other Democratic elected officials, changed his stance on same-sex marriage after the 2012 elections. But Dent, a fairly moderate Republican, joins a rather short list of Republicans who are in favor of marriage equality that includes Rep. Richard Hanna of New York, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. 

Dent said that his view on the issue has evolved due to “conversations with my family, I have come to realize that they already see the world through that lens.”

“As a Republican, I value equality, personal freedom and a more limited role for government in our lives,” Dent said in his statement. “I believe this philosophy should apply to the issue of marriage as well.”

Marriage Equality

Penn. Rep. Charlie Dent: Don't 'stand in the way' of gay marriage