Pennsylvania Republican State Rep. Mike Fleck has announced he is gay, making him the first openly gay member of the state legislature.
“Coming out is hard enough, but doing it in the public eye is definitely something I never anticipated,” the three-term central Pennsylvania lawmaker 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 told the Altoona Mirror the announcement was “something I have been working toward for months.”
Fleck, who graduated from Liberty University, founded by evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, said he was raised to believe homosexuality is a choice.
“I wanted to live a ‘normal’ life and raise a family,” he said. “I also believed that by marrying, I was fulfilling God’s will and I thought my same-sex attraction would simply go away.”
A former Eagle Scout and former regional director for the Boy Scouts of America, which bars openly gay members, Fleck said his “livelihood depended on hiding [his] true sexual orientation.”
He said he’s met many gay Christians who have “tried hard to change their God-given sexual orientation,” but none who have been successful.
“They’ve only succeeded at repressing their identity, only to have it reappear time and time again and always wreaking havoc not only on themselves, but especially on their family,” Fleck said.
Brian Sims, a Democrat elected to the state House in November, was expected to become Pennsylvania’s first openly gay lawmaker when he is sworn in in January, but will now be the second.
Fleck said he doesn’t foresee anything about his politics changing with his announcement.
“I don’t see anything changing in my life, I don’t see my voting pattern changing,” he said. “I just want to do my very best for the 81st district. I’m just trying to be authentic and I do owe it to my constituency to do that.”
Steve Miskin, a spokesman for state House Republican leaders, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Fleck’s announcement didn’t change anything in their eyes and that the caucus was “proud to have him as a member.”