Why GOP legislators should embrace the freedom to marry

Little Rhode Island made history last week, becoming the tenth state in the nation, and the final state in New England, to grant all of our citizens the freedom to marry the person they love. Passage of this measure hinged on the approval of the State Senate, where I am privileged to serve. It ultimately passed with a bipartisan majority of more than two-thirds.

The vote also marked the first time a Republican legislative caucus unanimously supported marriage equality.

In our view, establishing civil marriage rights for same-sex couples accords with both the U.S. Constitution and our values as Republicans. As Americans, we embrace principles of freedom, dignity and respect for the rule of law; and as Republican legislators, we strive to apply values of limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility and free enterprise to every decision before us. Consistency, as much as fairness, compels us to apply those values to the government’s treatment of all of our state’s citizens.

The freedom to marry the person you love is a fundamental right. For most of us, the prospect of falling in love and building a life together with our spouse is an essential component of that pursuit of happiness so profoundly articulated by our forefathers. In a country where we are free to live our lives as we see fit, so long as we do not infringe upon the rights of others, freedom must really mean freedom for everyone. The marriage of my neighbor, gay or straight, will have no impact on my own. Indeed, society at large and the institution of marriage itself will only be strengthened when more individuals choose a life of love, commitment and stability.

Other states are now poised to join Rhode Island in guaranteeing all of their citizens have equal access to civil marriage laws. Such momentum is thanks in part to the courage of a growing number of Republican lawmakers who have decided to stand up for the freedom to marry. These Republicans honor the traditions of our party, standing up for the rights of individuals against a government that would tell them how they should live their lives.

This changing perspective is crucial not only for achieving fairness for our citizens, but also in strengthening our party. Rigid opposition to the concept that gays and lesbians deserve equal treatment under the law alienates not only the LGBT community, but also their friends and families. With the future of our country at stake, our party cannot afford to allow abrasive social policies to deprive us of the talent, support and resources of those who share our core values but will not abide the mistreatment of their loved ones by government.