A month before Pennsylvania was to swear in its first openly gay state lawmaker, three-term state Rep. Mike Fleck announced in his local newspaper that he is gay.
Fleck is not only Pennsylvania's first openly gay state legislator, but appears to be one of only two openly gay Republicans serving in legislatures across the country last session.
Fleck told his personal story in the Huntington Daily News, recounting a difficult private struggle that involved seeing a Christian counselor and a secular therapist, and eventually separating from his wife.
As excerpted by PoliticsPa:
"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."
Fleck's south-central district is overlapped in part by the Senate district of Republican John Eichelberger, who has introduced bills to ban same-sex marriage and has been outspoken on his anti-gay views.
On his blog Saturday, Eichelberger described Fleck's announcement as "stunning," and noted it again on Sunday. "...it will be interesting as the business week begins, to see how Mike Fleck's announcement is received in his district and around the Commonwealth."
Next session, Fleck will be joined across the aisle by the first openly gay legislative candidate to run and win in Pennsylvania.
Democratic Rep.-elect Brian Sims will replace Democrat Babette Josephs representing center city Philadelphia.