Pa. Republican Congressman Voices Support for Marriage Equality

Charlie Dent joins a few other Republicans in Congress in supporting equal marriage rights, while in other Pennsylvania news, the mayor of Pittsburgh is going to officiate a wedding ceremony for multiple same-sex couples.

BY Trudy Ring

May 29 2014 3:52 PM ET

Rep. Charlie Dent

Supportive politicians are popping up all over the nation’s latest marriage equality state — Pennsylvania.

Charlie Dent, who represents a northeastern Pennsylvania district in the U.S. House, has become one of a handful of Republicans in Congress to recently endorse marriage equality. And Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto plans to conduct a wedding for up to 20 same-sex couples June 15, during the city’s PrideFest.

Dent gave his first official statement of support for marriage equality to The Washington Post Wednesday, saying, “Life is too short to have the force of government stand in the way of two adults whose pursuit of happiness includes marriage.”

Dent, considered one of the most moderate Republicans in Congress, had issued a congratulatory statement to Pennsylvania same-sex couples last week, when a federal judge struck down the state’s anti–marriage equality law. That led activist groups such as Freedom to Marry to characterize him as a full-on supporter, but then he said he was merely reconsidering his views, and would “have more to say about marriage equality in the near future.” This week, he did.

“Quoting from the Pennsylvania ruling, ‘in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage,’ Dent said that in ‘conversations with my family, I have come to realize that they already see the world through that lens,’” the Post reports.

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

Dent has been supportive on other LGBT issues as well, backing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and cosponsoring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. However, as a state legislator in 1996, he voted for Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act. He told the Post that “felt appropriate at the time ... but clearly times have changed, attitudes and perspectives have evolved, and I understand that.”

Other congressional Republicans who support marriage equality include senators Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Rob Portman of Ohio, along with representatives Richard Hanna of New York, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, Mayor Peduto, a Democrat, will officiate the marriages of same-sex couples in a ceremony in Triangle Park, in the city’s downtown area. A reception will follow at the nearby Fairmont Hotel.

“In the first few hours it was announced, we had more than 50 couples contact us and now we’re in the process of having to decide which 20 [to select] — and then reaching out to some magistrate friends and maybe the county executive as well to officiate some of the other services,” Peduto told Pittsburgh TV station KDKA. Peduto, who was sworn in as mayor in January, had said he wanted the first marriage he officiated in that position to be that of a same-sex couple.

“Anybody who loves one another and wishes to be married should have that opportunit,y and now in the state of Pennsylvania they will,” Peduto told KDKA. “So, any couple that is looking to be married, as mayor, I will be more than proud to be officiating that service."

Couples who want to be a part of the ceremony are asked to contact the mayor’s spokesman, Tim McNulty, at [email protected].
 

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