GOP's Dent: Same-sex marriage an issue of 'personal freedom'

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) on Wednesday officially became the latest Republican lawmaker to support gay marriage. 

The centrist GOP lawmaker said that, fundamentally, the issue of same-sex marriage is about equality. 

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"Life is too short to have the force of government stand in the way of two adults whose pursuit of happiness includes marriage," he said in a statement.

Dent said last week he was re-evaluating his position on gay marriage after a U.S. district court judge struck down his state's marriage ban. The governor declined to appeal the decision, making Pennsylvania the 19th state to legalize gay marriage. 

After the ruling, he congratulated gay couples. 

Dent previously voted for the Pennsylvania ban when he was a state legislator. And he also voted to affirm the Defense of Marriage Act as a congressman. He said his new position is in line with his party’s emphasis on personal freedom. 

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

A flurry of lawmakers came out in support of gay marriage last year as the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, including three GOP senators: Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rob Portman (Ohio).

Dent said he continues to oppose forcing religious institutions to perform same-sex marriages.