Pennsylvania State Sen. Jim Ferlo came out as gay Tuesday during a press conference at the state capitol where lawmakers made urgent calls on their peers to support legislation that would add LGBT protections to the state's hate crimes law.
"The focus of the press conference was the horrendous act of hate against a gay couple in Philly, but I paused and made a personal statement that I think is germane to the topic," Ferlo told BuzzFeed News when reached by phone. "I didn't plan and I didn't prepare it, but I thought it was an appropriate time to speak about the issue and share my experience."
Ferlo said he's hasn't kept his sexual orientation a secret or denied it to anyone, but has never made a public declaration about it prior to the press conference Tuesday. At one point, he told those gathered at the press conference, "I'm gay, get over it. It's a great life," witf reported.
The 63-year-old Pittsburgh Democrat has long pushed for the legislature to reinstate hate crimes protections that would cover victims who were targeted for their sexual orientation, among other reasons, after a court invalidated the law due to a technicality and joined the push to urgently pass such legislation after a gay couple was brutally beaten in Philadelphia this month.
However, Ferlo told BuzzFeed News that an amendment to the hate crimes law in the Senate was ready for this week, but was tabled, saying "We missed that opportunity."
On Monday, Rep. Brendan Boyle said that his own piece of legislation in the Pennsylvania House that would amend the state's hate crimes law would pass if leadership in the Republican majority would allow it come up for a vote, but that could be unlikely as the clock ticks down on the end of this year's session.
Ferlo, who is not seeking reelection and has only a few days left in the Pennsylvania Senate, said his coming out "can't hurt" in personal conversations with his colleagues on passing the hate crimes legislation.
After leaving the Senate later this year, Ferlo said he looks forward to continuing his work in economic redevelopment and urban renewal as well as on green and sustainability matters in the Pittsburgh area.