Republican Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Fleck has publicly announced that he is gay, making Fleck the only current openly gay Republican legislator and the first ever openly gay Pennsylvania lawmaker.
Fleck first made his announcement in the local Huntingdon Daily News (subscription only), describing the difficult road that led to him coming out.
“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.”
Though the Republican Party has a history of opposing gay rights issues, Fleck claims that he will not abandon his party in light of his sexuality.
“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 ... I don’t see anything changing in my life, I don’t see my voting pattern changing. I just want to do my very best for the 81st District.”
Fleck remains a devout Christian, and he states that he spent years attempting to reconcile his faith with his attraction to men. He stated that he struggled to simply ignore his same-sex attraction, though it was not successful.
“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.
In 2000, Fleck met his future wife and began to hope that a life with her would allow him to finally be “normal.” However, Fleck says that as he became increasingly honest about his sexuality, the two realized that their marriage would not work.
“She was everything I could have ever asked for and to this day she is still my best friend,” he said. “My wife and I became closer than ever before but it was bittersweet as we both concluded that the marriage was over.”
Ultimately, Fleck says that he was able to find a way to reconcile his devout Christian faith through therapy.
“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.”
“I sought out treatment from a Christian counselor, but when that didn’t work out, I engaged a secular therapist who told me point blank that I was gay and that I was too caught up in being the perfect Christian rather than actually being authentic and honest,” Fleck said.
Fleck, who was elected in 2006, plans to continue serving as an openly gay Representative despite representing one of the most conservative areas of Pennsylvania.
Eric Brown is an IBTimes political reporter who eats far too much pizza. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Brooklyn.