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As Republicans, we believe in a free market and the freedom to make your own way. We support a small government that works best when it gets out of the way. Just as our government has no place putting undue burden on businesses, it certainly has no place defining our families or our marriages. When two people find each other and enter into a committed relationship, we should honor that commitment. In America, freedom means freedom for everyone, including the freedom to marry the person you love.

We also believe our party is committed to strengthening families. When two people find each other and enter in a committed relationship, we should honor that commitment. The traditions that follow, including the merging of two families and the celebration of the union, give our lives stability and purpose – something we need more of in today’s uncertain world. Family is the foundation of America. But that doesn’t mean that all families are the same.

Each of our families is unique, with its own set of joys and challenges. All families, regardless of their size or make-up, share traditions, stories and values— and the bonds they create make our country strong.

We strive to teach our children to treat others the way we wish to be treated. And in this case, all loving and committed couples deserve to be treated with respect by members of their community and in the eyes of the law.

Between us, we represent constituents who have entrusted us to be their voice on issues they care about. Some are struggling to find work. Some are building businesses. And some want their loving and committed relationships to be legally recognized through marriage.

Earlier this year, the Wyoming House considered legislation to allow gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry. Unfortunately, the bill failed. For our colleague, Rep. Cathy Connolly, however, the debate wasn’t just political – it was personal. Under existing law, she cannot marry the person she loves. Her presence was a reminder of what is at stake, not just for Cathy and her family and for thousands of other Wyomingites; if we support families, we must support all families.

Nationally, majorities in support of marriage continue to grow. Last week, a group of prominent Republicans – including former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson – filed an amicus brief in support of the freedom to marry with the 10th Circuit court. As arguments begin early next month on a challenge to Utah’s marriage ban, the court’s decision could have a serious impact on all states in the 10th Circuit, including Wyoming.

As Republicans, we have stood up for lower taxes, protecting seniors and giving veterans the benefits they have earned. We don’t believe that these important tenets should be denied to certain citizens because of whom they are or who they love. In addition to the deep moral bond marriage represents, it also provides many practical benefits that should apply equally to all couples. Some, like social security and tax breaks, are routine for many couples but made more complicated or simply denied for others. Others benefits, like family medical leave and veteran’s benefits, are not available to all. Only marriage can guarantee that couples and families will have access to the services and benefits they need when they need them. There is no substitute.

Public opinion continues to shift, and in an attempt to muddy the waters, opponents are eager to change the conversation to topics that are not relevant. To be clear, we are discussing civil marriage for loving and committed couples. No clergy, church or religious organization will ever be forced to perform a wedding that violates their religious beliefs.

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For us, this issue comes down to what’s right—for our beliefs and for our constituents. This issue is about people and their families, not about government. We cannot embrace a smaller government for business and an overreaching one for the families we claim to support. What starts on one knee and often includes struggles around a kitchen table or cheering from the stands, does not have a place for government. Supporting marriage for all couples is as simple as making sure everyone has the opportunity to find love and happiness. We all strive to treat others the way we wish to be treated.

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Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson

Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson

Rep. Matthias Green, R-Laramie

Rep. Kathy Coleman, R-Sheridan

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne

Rep. David Blevins, R-Powell

Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette

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Reach Jeremy Fugleberg at 307-266-0623 or jeremy.fugleberg@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jayfug.

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