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Pa. has first openly gay legislator - abc27 WHTM

Pa. has first openly gay legislator

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Pennsylvania has its first openly gay sitting lawmaker, although voters in his conservative district between Altoona and State College didn't know that when they sent him to Harrisburg.

They learned of it Saturday when they picked up their local newspaper.

Rep. Mike Fleck came out as part of what he calls a personal journey to discover his true sexuality.

Fleck attended Liberty University, the evangelical school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, is a devout Christian and Eagle Scout, and said he tried to suppress his same-sex attraction.

He told the Huntingdon Daily News that he's still a Republican and "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 paper.

Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pa., says Fleck is the first openly gay lawmaker in Pennsylvania and one of two gay Republicans in America, which is groundbreaking and difficult. Fleck is refusing all interview requests.

"It's a remarkable moment for me as a gay man and it's a remarkable moment for Pennsylvania history," Martin told abc27 News. "I hope we can give Representative fleck some breathing room as a human, as a person who's been through a lot just to really adjust to his new world."

Fleck was re-elected last month to a fourth two-year term. There are whispers among people saying it's a bit disingenuous for him not to have made his announcement before running for office and thereby letting voters decide, but no one is publicly criticizing his sexual orientation.

Although some say the GOP is hostile to homosexuals, Fleck disagrees.

"The Republican Party is all about the government needing to stay out of people's lives," he said. "I'm not a one-issue person and it's not a one-issue party."

Fleck was married, but is now divorced. He and his ex-wife had no children.

Newly-elected Democratic state Rep. Brian Sims of Philadelphia will be Pennsylvania's second openly gay lawmaker when he takes office in January.

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