Republican rep speaks out about coming out - abc27 WHTM

Republican rep speaks out about coming out

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A state legislator who made history last year is heading for the political fight of his life.  Huntingdon County representative Mike Fleck will have a primary opponent for the first time. He's been so popular with his constituents, he's never had one before.

Why will things be different this time?

Certainly not because he's a stranger to his constituents.  Fleck is a lifelong resident of the county.  His family goes back 230 years there. He even lives on Fleck Road. But late last year, he revealed something he'd finally come to terms with.

"I am still the same person," he says. "Now they just know who I am personally."

With his childless marriage ending, Fleck told his local paper he's gay. 

Before that, he had to come out to himself.  Fighting his fears was not an easy process.

"I'm going to burn in hell for thinking I'm gay, and I'm going to lose my wife, and I'm not going to have that family and the white picket fence, and I'm going to lose my dream job, and the public ridicule, and I'm not going to be able to stand it."

But so far he has been able to stand it, and he's starting to campaign hard for the May primary. Will the Republican leadership help him? They say they will and the House Majority Leader's chief of staff predicts the primary voters will too.

"I think times are changing," says Krystjan Callahan. "I think you're going to find that Republicans are a lot more supportive than they may have been ten or twenty years ago."

Still, Fleck could have as many as four opponents.

When he came out last year, he was the only out gay Republican state legislator in the entire country.  Now there's one more in Ohio. 

He's had some brutal feedback from constituents. But some may be coming around.

"You know, it's been little old ladies who've come up to me and they'll whisper, 'Hey, my brother, my nephew, my grandson.' And they're like, 'You're ok with me, but don't tell anyone because no one around here knows!'"

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