Brian Sims Calls State Rep. Mike Fleck’s Coming-Out A ‘Huge Opportunity’ for PA’s LGBT Population
State Rep. Mike Fleck, a Republican in Central Pennyslvania, told the Huntingdon Daily News this weekend that he is gay. The news makes him not just Pennsylvania’s first openly gay lawmaker (with Philadelphia state Rep.-elect Brian Sims set to become the second), but also the only openly gay elected Republican state Legislator in the entire United States. This is big news!
PW caught up with Sims—an LGBT activist and lawyer who, back in the spring, beat state Rep. Babette Josephs in the Democratic primary for the 182nd District, which includes the Gayborhood and Rittenhouse—to get his reaction on Fleck’s coming-out. Fleck’s announcement, Sims says, represents a huge opportunity for the state’s LGBT population. “The truth of the matter is, I’m excited any time anybody feels that they can come out of the closet,” he tells PW, “[and] that they can be honest with themselves and people around them.”
Sims says he and Fleck spoke at length yesterday regarding the announcement. He didn’t go into details, but said Fleck’s announcement should have Republicans thinking twice about blocking LGBT-related legislation in Pennsylvania. “We have an entirely Republican-led Legislature, and often times, as we’ve seen, Republicans in Pennsylvania, especially in leadership, don’t really want the input of the Democratic Party,” he says. “I’m hoping with what Mike said, the Republican leadership gets to see firsthand one of their own colleagues and the struggle that he’s gone through and [think about] why they should [support non-discrimination legislation].”
Several pieces of legislation, including a gay marriage bill and legislation that would add homosexuals to the state’s anti-discrimination law, have been introduced but have gone nowhere. According to the ACLU, 70 percent of our state’s population are unprotected in the patchwork of local ordinances due to lack of state protection.
Regarding specifics, Sims says he and Fleck have not “gotten that far” in talks about co-sponsorship of any legislation. He did, however, note that he will pursue a ban on reparative therapy, which aims to change one’s sexual orientation. “We know it’s bad science,” Sims says of reparative therapy. “Homosexuality is not a medical disorder. It’s not a psychological disorder. We’ve been told that for years and years that there are people who say they are curing a person’s homosexuality through treatment. They’re really brainwashing people and causing immense psychological and mental damage.”
In Fleck’s interview with the Daily News of Huntingdon Valley, the lawmaker—who won his seat in 2006 and ran unopposed in November—said that he “sought out treatment from a Christian counselor, but when that didn’t work out,” he went to a secular counselor who told him he was gay and to accept that. Before splitting up with his wife last year, Fleck had been quoted as saying that he wanted “to live a normal life and raise a family,” believing “that by marrying, I was fulfilling God’s will and I thought my same-sex attraction would simply go away.”