HUNTINGDON, Pa. (AP)—A state lawmaker from central Pennsylvania has come out as gay in an interview with his local newspaper.
Republican Rep. Mike Fleck, 39, told The Daily News of Huntingdon County that his personal journey has been a long and difficult process.
Fleck won his House seat in 2006 and ran unopposed for a fourth term in the Nov. 6 election. He represents a district that includes rural Appalachian and Amish communities, located between the cities of Altoona and State College.
A devout Christian, he told the newspaper that he was always taught homosexuality was a choice and he got married in 2002.
“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.”
He also worked as a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America in Huntingdon County from 1999 to 2004.
“My livelihood depended on hiding my true sexual orientation,” he said of his work with the Boy Scouts, “something I was very good at.”
He told the newspaper he didn’t discuss his struggles with anyone, including his wife, for many years.
“My wife and I became closer than ever before but it was bittersweet as we both concluded that the marriage was over,” Fleck said. The couple split last year, but he said his wife is still his best friend.
He said his greatest difficulty has been reconciling his faith with his sexuality.
“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 he met many gay Christians during his years of counseling “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.
Fleck becomes the first and only legislator currently in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly who is openly gay. In the next legislative session, he will be joined by now-Rep.-elect Brian Sims, an openly gay Democrat from Philadelphia.
Fleck said he waited until after the election to disclose his sexuality in order to avoid unnecessary distractions for his friends and colleagues.
He said his political convictions remain unchanged.
“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.”
Fleck told the newspaper he hopes his openness will help others.
“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.”