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Republican State Rep. Mike Fleck: I’m Gay

State Rep. Mike Fleck

State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon) publicly acknowledged Saturday that he is gay, making him the first openly gay lawmaker in Pa. and the only* currently sitting openly gay Republican state legislator in the entire country.

In a deeply personal story by the Huntingdon Daily News (subscription), Fleck, a devout Christian, explained the difficult road to his announcement.

“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.”

He said his party affiliation remains strong.

“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.”

More of his testimonial from the Daily News is below.

Fleck, 39, has a resume that would impress Republicans anywhere. An Eagle Scout by age 18, he graduated from Liberty University in 1995 and worked professionally for the Boy Scouts of America as a district executive in Huntingdon County from 1999 to 2004. He was married in 2002.

In the legislature he’s been a moderate Republican; he was targeted by the conservative Citizens Alliance for Pennsylvania in 2011. However, aside a few votes in committees where Fleck doesn’t serve, there haven’t been significant votes on gay rights issues during his tenure.

He and his wife separated about a year ago; they do not have children.

He will be joined in Pa. in January by Brian Sims of Philadelphia. The Democratic attorney is the first openly gay candidate to run and win office in Pa.; he ousted Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Phila) in April.

Ted Martin is Executive Director of Equality Pa., the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization. He says Fleck is now the only openly gay Republican legislator in the nation, although another will take office in Ohio in January. Former Missouri Republican Rep. Zach Wyatt is also openly gay.*

“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,” said Martin, who came out at age 32. “I would hope people respect his integrity and his privacy.”

There’s no conceivable political upside to the announcement in Fleck’s district which is one of the most conservative in the state. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly 2-1.

Fleck won a four-way primary for the seat of outgoing Rep. Larry Sather in 2006 and was unopposed for re-election this year. The 81st district comprises most of Huntingdon County with parts of Blair and Mifflin. Under the new map expected to be in place for 2014, he will have a slightly more moderate district: all of Huntingdon, a smaller part of Mifflin and a part of Centre County in the suburbs of State College.

*The original version of this story reported that Fleck was the first openly gay GOP state lawmaker in the country; that was based on two interviews but is not the case

Here is more of the Huntingdon Daily News story:

After college, Fleck returned home to southern Huntingdon County, purchased his grandfather’s farm and found himself working as district executive for the Boy Scouts of America. He’d been extensively involved in the program in his youth, was once named Scout of the Year and, during his senior year at SHCHS, earned the distinction of Eagle Scout.

As an executive for the organization, Fleck said “now my livelihood depended on hiding my true sexual orientation, something I was very good at.”

He continued that during his 20s, he firmly believed what he’s been taught, that homosexuality was a choice and so never felt in great conflict because he’d learned to suppress his feelings.

“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 fall 2000, Fleck met his future wife and they immediately clicked.

“She was everything I could have ever asked for and to this day she is still my best friend,” he said.

While his professional dreams were becoming reality, Fleck said he was also weathering personal battles, namely his same-sex attraction which, contrary to all he believed and was taught, remained.

“So I just prayed harder and put it in God’s hands,” he said, adding that as one of the county’s most visible couples, the unresolved feelings and pressure of public scrutiny took its toll and Fleck opted for therapy.

“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.

He said the hardest part of the process has been reconciling his faith with his sexuality.

“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.”

Fleck said once he was able to be honest with himself, he could finally be honest with others, because no one in his life had any clue about his personal struggle, not even his wife.

“My wife and I became closer than ever before but it was bittersweet as we both concluded that the marriage was over,” he said. Fleck moved out in the summer of 2011 and his wife bought a house that fall.


Fleck stressed he is still the same representative the residents of the 81st District elected in 2006 and have since reelected.

“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.”

92 Responses

  1. I agree with Billie, I’m extended family and as I read the many comments made above, they say he has courage and guts. Did he try Hormone injections or shock therapy, probably not, they really work. If he really had courage, he would have come-out before the election; I voted for him and I feel deceived. I’m sure he didn’t want to loose his $85,000 dollar a year start his new life as a gay blade. He should forfeit the election and the Governor appoint a straight representative from the county, we have many of them here; many are Veterans, they will need work and have already shown their courage and love of country. Mike will be contacted by gay organization with money to support him, probably all the way to the White House if he wants to take it that far since he has nation exposure. Anyone who has deceived his self for so long has deceived me also. It seems he still has issues, to resolve his conflicting natural inclinations of his sensuality or his faith. “Coming out is hard enough, but doing it in the public eye is definitely something I never anticipated,” Mike said. What happened to make him do it know if he hadn’t planned it. Was he discovered out and made it public prior to being exposed without a cover story?

  2. I agree with Billie, I’m extended family and as I read the many comments made above, they say he has courage and guts. Did he try Hormone injections or shock therapy, probably not, they really work. If he really had courage, he would have come-out before the election; I voted for him and I feel deceived. I’m sure he didn’t want to loose his $85,000 dollar a year start his new life as a gay blade. He should forfeit the election and the Governor appoint straight representative from the county, we have many of them here. Many are Veterans, they will need work and have already contributed a lot.

  3. @cjc:

    Unless you’ve ever come out of the closet yourself, you really have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s likely that this guy didn’t come to terms with his own sexuality until recently.

  4. So this guy lies by concealing his orientation first to the Boy Scouts which he knows full well that they do not approve of this lifestyle, then he withholds this information from his constituents until after the election so that the voters won’t find out, again lying by concealing this info. What makes you think he will be an honest rep? What else will he conceal from his constituents?

  5. I commeNd Representative Fleck for finally coming out; however, you should have done so before the election. Many thought he was gay and knew he was living on the down-low but still supported him. He was wrong to cheat on his wife but he’s not the first. Yes, we commend you for finally coming out before you were “outed” but let’s not try and sugar coat it with religion and politics. Possibly, you can move your party in the right direction to support equal rights for “ALL”.

  6. Not too long ago in the grand scheme of things, both Republicans and Democrats had very poor records on equality where sexual orientation was concerned. Through the election of Barney Frank in the U.S. House of Representatives, there was suddenly a voice from the GLBT community in the Democratic caucus, and their attitudes began to change.

    I see Rep. Fleck’s voice being an important one to bring about change to the Republicans in Pennsylvania House.

  7. Really Aaron?
    Its the angry left-wing gays that are the problem? Not the “supportive and tolerant” Republican party?
    That’s as hilariously ridiculous as Fleck’s assertion that “The Republican party is all about the government needing to stay out of people’s lives”.
    Personally I have no dog in this hunt but for those who believe what you and Fleck assert, those of us on the sidelines can only watch and wonder at the blatant, obvious denial of reality involved. Jusat look at Fleck’s story above — a lifelong willful delusion culminating in that fantasy colliding with the reality of it all.

  8. We have know Rep. Fleck since he was in the Boy Scouts and we always thought he was Gay. Sorry, Mike I think you’re in the wrong party and you need to flip to the other side. You would have been “Brave” & had “Courage” if you would have come out before the election but IMO you where sneaky to wait. You wanted to get back in office again and then hopefully it will all blow over before the time election comes around and people forget. You knew what you where doing and how this party truly feels. Shame on you for playing politics! And as far as being a “Gay Conservative Christian”….do you truly believe those words can go together? No matter how much you want to sugar coat it your Ex Wife and family has to be deeply hurt from your life lie.

  9. The more Republicans and other seemingly conservative type people who open up and are honest… The closer we are to living our truth and all coming to the reality that we are all different and but viable human beings.

  10. His Republican colleagues may be personally supportive, until they vote to discriminate against him: let’s see his “courage” then.

  11. While I commend him for coming out,the Republician party as a whole is still anti-gay.
    Sorry,when you have adding an amendment that would ban gay marriage,civil unions and domestic partnerships as part of your party platform,don’t tell me I should vote for you or trust your party at all.

  12. Rep. Fleck will quickly discover (also clearly illustrated in the comments here) that his fellow Republicans are surprisingly supportive and tolerant. Many angry gays on the other hand don’t have the same open mind toward the GOP.

    Angry left-wing gays: times are changing. You don’t need to hate Republicans as much as you’ve become used to. The gay community is broad, diverse and mature. We don’t need your enforced conformity on political ideology.

  13. This took some courage. I respect him for coming out. I hope that his constituents realize that the reasons that they elected him are still there, and that his sexuality doesn’t affect his abilities as a legislator. My expectations, unfortunately, don’t coincide with my hopes. I wish him well.

  14. Hey Mike,
    Good job, and good luck. I am a liberal and Bi, and although I don’t agree with conservative politics, I hope that this will be a turning point, a point in time where this great nation can finally work together for the good of it’s people, where there is understanding on both sides of all the issues,
    and where religion is kept out of the House
    abd Senate

  15. “Even though I don’t support the lifestyle, I still love you and will always be here for you.”

    In the course of loving and being there for your uncle, Coryna (and I believe you), I hope you will discover there is no “the [scary!] lifestyle” you have to be so careful to not support.

    There’s simply your uncle’s life, with all its ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses. And that’s what every other LGBT person has: a life, specific to them, and them alone. Any given gay person doesn’t need your “support” . . . but we really would like to not have LAWS that discriminate against us. That’s all. Peace.

  16. I am his niece..our family has had a tough time finding out about this the past few years, months for some and weeks for others. Even though I don’t support the lifestyle, I still love you and will always be here for you.
    I’m proud of you for being so open, Uncle Mike. I know you didn’t have to be.

  17. Oh, and “brave” would have entailed coming out before the election. I’m sure it wouldn’t have matter a whit since his party is all about staying out of people’s bedrooms….

  18. I congratulate him for coming out, but I really can’t let his comment go by without saying something.

    “The Republican party is all about the government needing to stay out of people’s lives.”

    That comment is utterly false and totally unnecessary. He could have said he hopes to work with his colleagues — or his fellow gay legislator on the other side of the aisle — on gay issues but remains enthusiastically supportive of his party’s other issues. Or something other than an abject lie. A falsehood like that even bring into question his supposed faithfulness to Christianity. Isn’t there something in there about bearing false witness?

  19. How sad, that Pennsylvania still is so far from same-sex marriage or civil partnerships at least (that because its territory of Catholic Church or because have most oldest population in the States?). Two openly gay men in the state legislature – its nice, of course, but not a very big deal in the Western democracy (even if this gay person is a Conservative). P.S. Incredible attractive men… My congratulations, Mike – and welcome to the club!

  20. It takes real courage to come out, and make this statement. As a democrat, I hope your party will embrace and support you. I hope they learn from you, and change their radical position on this issue, for all. Best of luck to you.

  21. Congratulations Rep. Fleck:
    You did a very brave thing and we need more brave committed politicians to put this country back on track.
    I was happy to hear the piece about how you and your wife are best friends. Love is love!
    I am gay and 65 and I reconected with my girlfriend from college a coupkle of years ago. She was happy that I connected and asked me why I did. I explained that I left because I couldn’t love her the way she needed to be loved and i then looked at her and said, :You don’t think people like you come along every day, do you”?
    May God be with you and guide you always in your work and personal life. Live life to the fullest as it is very short!

  22. Some of you people should be ashamed of yourselves. This is not the time to attack him for his political beliefs. I can’t think of a single time he has voted against the gay community. This guy is not a hypocrite. Plenty of gays and lesbians believe in less government. The fact that Democrats are attacking him here makes me ashamed to be a registered Democrat. Best wishes to you, Rep Fleck.

  23. I wish you well in your political life as you move forward. I hope you will have the courage to stand up against your party when the time comes to vote on issues that affect the gay community. The sad part of this is, that if your sexual orientation had been know previously, you probably would not have been elected and you definitely would not have been able to stay in the scouts.

  24. I commend you for your courage especially being a member of a party that is notoriously anti gay, I wish you all the best and hope that your party is as accepting of you now as they were before your announcement.

  25. I am sure the story doesn’t begin to penetrate into the conflicted mind of Rep. Fleck, but I know how powerful is the (false) claim is that you can’t be Christian and gay. I hope he (and others) will look at some of the resources that are out there which show clearly that a) God loves everyone regardless your gender) and b) the few verses in the Bible that get quoted endlessly to condemn LGBT people are rather easily shown to be irrelevant or ambiguous, especially compared to all the parts that demonstrate point a). God bless you Rep. Fleck in your personal spiritual growth. As for your politics, perhaps God will continue to work with you in that area too to show you the error of your ways up to now…..

  26. “The Republican party is all about the government needing to stay out of people’s lives,” Fleck said.”

    LIE. See the TEA PARTY.

  27. I have three comments
    1) Congratulations Rep. Fleck for your courage
    2) Good luck and
    3) Wow!

  28. I am sorry, but this pisses me off. I don’t understand gay and republican anymore that I would understand black and a member of the KKK. They are inherently incompatible. You can believe in whatever ideals you want, but to belong to a party that actively works to take away your rights, and the rights of the group of which you are a part is an insult to people who actually give a damn and work to promote change. I am tired of gay closeted republicans in general, but especially tired of those who are screwing everyone over under the guise of you can be both. In my opinion, you are still not being honest.

    To call this man brave is ridiculous. He is spineless and still choosing to deny the reality of the party he claims to be a part of.

  29. I agree with Jimmy ^^^. Way to steal Brian Sims’ thunder. Welcome to being out of the closet, but this is bravery with a big caveat.

    Also, as a gay Eagle Scout myself (26 now), I wonder how long before either BSA demands Fleck return his Eagle badge, or if Fleck does it on his own.

  30. Good for him. But this doesn’t seem like the classiest move. Allowing someone else to do all the work of making an openly gay person able to serve in the legislature (Rep. Brian Sims) and then swooping in and stealing all his thunder reeks of opportunism and some cowardice. After the election, before Rep. Sims is sworn in… way to hedge your bets then take advantage….

    But welcome to the LGBT community, Rep. Fleck. Hopefully you’ll begin to support equality and bring your crazy party on board.

  31. It takes courage to do what he did. It’s not an easy thing, and as someone who ran for office and got “outed” in the process, I speak with some personal experience. I sincerely hope that his honesty will help move the GOP away from its anti-gay positions, and I hope he works with members of both parties to make Pennsylvania a more welcoming and accepting Commonwealth.

    I’m also pleased to see so many positive reactions on PoliticsPA… that’s pretty awesome of itself.

  32. Coming out at 39 must feel liberating for Rep. Fleck, and while I’m sorry he was so indoctrinated by his homophobic religion that he had to get married on his way to figuring himself out, I guess he should be commended. As a 46-year old who came out at 17, it’s hard not to jeer Fleck for supporting a GOP that publicly despises gay people and has acted legislatively for decades to ensure LGBT folks were denied equality–let alone basic human dignity. Fleck’s statement that “the Republican party is all about the government needing to stay out of people’s lives,” is laughable on it’s face. The GOP of the last half century is a gaggle of “do as I say and not as I do” hypocrites. When Fleck find himself finally in a position to vote on LGBT issues, he’s in for a rude awakening.

  33. best of luck as you begin to livbe your life in the public eye. Your background and situation will make you more sensitive and tolerant of people who are ‘different’ and marginalized in society. I am relatively sure what when you meet Jesus face to face he is going to ask you if you have lived a life that is true to yourself and not what side of the aisle you cacused on. As a fellow Christian I embrace your courage and lookforward to having you become a true leader for our country – party be damned!

  34. As a proud member of the Pennsylvania gay community, I applaud Rep. Fleck. The announcement to come out of the closet is an enormously difficult decision and I could not imagine doing this in his position. What a brave man! I hope that his colleagues Rep. Nick Micarelli and his “best friend” and “roommate” Rep. Jimmy Christiana could be so brave with their own personal decisions as well.

  35. This wasn’t brave. What will be brave is standing up to his party bosses and christianists who insist on destroying the lives and families of gay people. We’ll see if he can do that.

  36. Out gay conservative elected officials and political figures are generally not a big deal in Northern Europe, including Britain, the largest single source among all countries for our own laws and constitution in America. Can’t be gay and conservative? Tell that to Lord Black of Brentwood, David Starkey, or Matthew Sephton. If the GOP wedded reason to the issue of sexual orientation and basically quit seeing it in and of itself as an issue–even while remaining otherwise conservative on everything else–I suspect a surprisingly large percentage (albeit still a minority) of self-identified gay voters, especially those 35 years old and older–would shift to reliably Republican in the voting booth, perhaps especially in the very places in the US where the Republican Party is viable yet most under threat, i.e., swing counties trending more blue lately. The GOP is easily a decade behind their partisan equivalents across the pond (the Boy Scouts of American are, too, by the way, but that’s a wholly different topic and more ironic given that the Boy Scouts were started in Britain), and there are thousands of gay voters in America who only for the reason of GOP homophobia don’t vote Republican but otherwise very often would. Under the current GOP leadership however, they almost *never* will, especially in upper-level ballot races. It might also be noted that the number of self-identified gay voters in the 2012 presidential election is almost identical to President Obama’s margin of victory, according to The Economist: ::The 5% of voters who identified themselves as gay in exit polls opted for Mr Obama by 76% to 22%—enough to account for his entire margin of victory.:: (Nov. 10, 2012) The current GOP leadership might want to take note of that. But they won’t.

  37. Give him a break Dave from Houston. You are 100% correct, but the only the party can change is from the inside. Fleck made a very brave move and should be commended for it. Now it’s time for him to help get started with the change that’s needed in the GOP.

  38. “The Republican party is all about the government needing to stay out of people’s lives.”

    Sorry, Mr. Fleck. But that is a flat-out lie, and you know it. If the Republican party didn’t exist, gay Americans would have all of their constitutionally guaranteed civil rights in all 50 states. The GOP has systematically disenfranchised minority voters (during the last election), unrelentingly passed laws to control women’s bodies, and demonized gay people by claiming they were a threat to opposite-sex marriage. The fact you don’t intend to change your voting pattern speaks volumes about you and your party. At least I can take solace in the fact that when you vote to discriminate against gay citizens (and you know you will), you’ll now be harming your own life too.

  39. Good for him. It takes guts to do this, and impressive he did it apparently of his own accord and timeline. Now show some more guts and pressure the Boy Scouts to stop banning members for what you know is not a personal choose. And work on making the Republican platform less anti-gay.

  40. America and especially those whose are discriminated and whose civil rights are assaulted through bigotry, money and legislation; does not need another half hearted spineless sway with the wing lock step politician. Nothing could be further from the truth about his statement that “The Republican party is all about the government needing to stay out of people’s lives”. To add injury to insult, Rep. Fleck giving himself a pass, an excuse for his weaknesses by stating “I’m not a one-issue person and it’s not a one-issue party”. This only serves to illustrate how he is justifying his cowardice. Coming out to feel better about yourself is one thing, however; being a Representative means you stand for your convictions and fight for change against injustice, especially those you recognize, understand and have experienced.

  41. Thank you so much for your courage and your strength. You have a group that will always support you in this no matter what. God bless!

  42. I’ve known Mike for years, both as a Scouter and a constituent, and I am proud to be the friend of a man with such courage. We could surely use more of that in our elected leadership at all levels.

  43. Congratulations to him. Is there any chance he can convince the rest of the Republicans to be less crazy when it comes to Gay issues?

  44. I hope one day that announcements like this will be unnecessary. Unfortunately they still are and I applaud him because it took a lot of guts to come out.

  45. Congratulations! The coming out process is always a very personal one. As a public figure, you have also demonstrated courage in the possible face of adversity. Aside from party differences and other issues, you should know that you are being applauded for your actions and many queer Pennsylvanians, like me, and our many allies, are also here for you in support and appreciation of this major step you have taken as an openly gay elected official and a human being! Bravo!

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