Pennsylvania State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon) publicly acknowledged Saturday that he is gay, making him the first openly gay lawmaker in Pa. and the only currently sitting openly gay Republican state legislator in the country.
In a deeply personal story by the Huntingdon Daily News (subscription), Fleck, a devout Christian, explained the difficult road to his announcement.
“Coming out is hard enough, but doing it in the public eye is definitely something I never anticipated,” he said. “I’m still the exact same person and I’m still a Republican and, most importantly, I’m still a person of faith trying to live life as a servant of God and the public. The only difference now is that I will also be doing so as honestly as I know how.”
He said his party affiliation remains strong.
“The Republican party is all about the government needing to stay out of people’s lives,” Fleck said. “I’m not a one-issue person and it’s not a one-issue party.”
More of his testimonial from the Daily News is below.
Fleck, 39, has a resume that would impress Republicans anywhere. An Eagle Scout by age 18, he graduated from Liberty University in 1995 and worked professionally for the Boy Scouts of America as a district executive in Huntingdon County from 1999 to 2004. He was married in 2002.
In the legislature he’s been a moderate Republican; he was targeted by the conservative Citizens Alliance for Pennsylvania in 2011. However, aside a few votes in committees where Fleck doesn’t serve, there haven’t been significant votes on gay rights issues during his tenure.
He and his wife separated about a year ago; they do not have children.
He will be joined in Pa. in January by Brian Sims of Philadelphia. The Democratic attorney is the first openly gay candidate to run and win office in Pa.; he ousted Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Phila) in April.
Ted Martin is Executive Director of Equality Pa., the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization. He says Fleck is now the only openly gay Republican legislator in the nation, although another will take office in Ohio in January. Former Missouri Republican Rep. Zach Wyatt is also openly gay.*
“There’s an opportunity here to have an open discussion in a new way,” Martin said. “There’s a real live voice to talk about it inside the Capitol, inside the Republican caucus. I hope Representative Fleck will want to work with us.”
“I respect his process, respect that this isn’t easy,” said Martin, who came out at age 32. “I would hope people respect his integrity and his privacy.”
There’s no conceivable political upside to the announcement in Fleck’s district which is one of the most conservative in the state. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly 2-1.
Fleck won a four-way primary for the seat of outgoing Rep. Larry Sather in 2006 and was unopposed for re-election this year. The 81st district comprises most of Huntingdon County with parts of Blair and Mifflin. Under the new map expected to be in place for 2014, he will have a slightly more moderate district: all of Huntingdon, a smaller part of Mifflin and a part of Centre County in the suburbs of State College.