Pennsylvania now has an out LGBT lawmaker — a few weeks earlier than expected.
"Coming out is hard enough, but doing it in the public eye is definitely something I never anticipated," Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Fleck said to the Huntingdon Daily News in a groundbreaking interview. "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."
Raised in a religious family, Fleck believed that homosexuality was a choice.
"I wanted to live a ‘normal’ life and raise a family," Fleck said. “I also believed that by marrying, I was fulfilling God’s will and I thought my same-sex attraction would simply go away."
Fleck, who was also an executive director for Boy Scouts of America, felt compelled to stay in the closet even though he knew he was gay. "[M]y livelihood depended on hiding my true sexual orientation, something I was very good at."
But after struggling to reconcile his sexual orientation with his religion, he was finally able to be honest to himself and therefor honest to those around him.
"Through years of counseling, I’ve met a lot of gay Christians who have tried hard to change their God-given sexual orientation, but at the end of the day, I know of none who’ve been successful," he said. "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."
Now, Fleck is Pennsylvania's first out LGBT lawmaker. He stressed, though, that his politics have not changed and that he is still the same politician his voters reelected to represent them.
"I don’t see anything changing in my life, I don’t see my voting pattern changing," Fleck 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."
Fleck's full, personal account can be read at PAPolitics.com.
His decision to come out now comes on the heels of the election of Brian Sims to the state House as well. Sims ran as an out candidate and was expected to become the first out member of the state's legislature when he takes office, but now will be the legislature's second out gay lawmaker, joining Fleck.