Former Married GOP Penn. State Legislator Comes Out
Conservative Pennsylvania State Rep. Mike Fleck publicly announced he is gay, which makes him the first openly gay lawmaker in the state, PoliticasPa.com reports. The GOP politician is also one of the only openly gay Republican state legislators in the U.S.
Fleck, 39, told the Huntingdon (Penn.) Daily News that he is a devout Christian and acknowledge that he would have a difficult time in politics from here on out.
"Coming out is hard enough, but doing it in the public eye is definitely something I never anticipated," he told the newspaper. "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 went on to say that he still feels strongly about the Republican Party. "I'm not a one-issue person and it's not a one-issue party," he said. Fleck was an Eagle Scout graduated from Liberty University, a Christian conservative school founded by Jerry Falwell, in 1995. After school, he worked with the Boy Scouts of America as a district executive from 1999 to 2004. In 2002, he married his wife but separated about year ago. They do not have any children.
PoliticasPa.com points out that Fleck has been a moderate Republican during his political career. Last year, the Citizens Alliances for Pennsylvania, a conservative group, slammed Fleck by launching television ads against him for his past support of green energy programs. Still, according to the website, Fleck has not made many strides to progress LGBT rights in the state.
Ted Martin, the executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, said he believes Fleck is currently the only out Republican legislator in the country. But former Missouri Republican Rep. Zach Wyatt, who is also out, will take office in January.
"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. I would hope people respect his integrity and his privacy."
Fleck's Central Pennsylvania district is largely rural and politically conservative.