PA's gay Republican? A good thing
by Mark Segal
Dec 06, 2012 | 2487 views | 2 2 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Republican Christian right-of-center state representative from a conservative Pennsylvania district has come out — and some in our community have reacted like the sky has fallen in. This is a good thing! Let’s look at the issues one at a time.

Rep. Mike Fleck is the first out Pennsylvania state lawmaker. At the same time, Rep.-elect Brian Sims is the first out person to be elected to the state House. He takes office in January and, with Fleck, will be the state’s only two out state representatives.

He’s a Republican. So what? Have you noticed that we as a community are not all the same? Are all Jews the same? African-Americans? Catholics? There are gay Republicans. And there is no shame in embracing our Republican brothers and sisters, as long as they stand for equality. Being a Republican is no different than having a different religion.

So let’s see where he stands on other issues. Since most of our political community is progressive, here is a place where he might differ with many of us, but one can agree to disagree and still work towards equality. Some attach other issues to our own, and that is a decision that each of us must make, but it’s not always a position of the community at large. For instance, I consider myself a feminist — should I not work with those who are not?

If anyone has a problem with his being a Christian, you’re not a good partner in the fight for equality. Now, there are degrees and different kinds of Christians, but the fact that he has publicly come out makes a statement in itself. We of all people believe in freedom of religion. We also believe that religion should not step on our rights.

He’s conservative. Again, so what? In fact, this is the strongest argument to support him. He may very well be able to reach those we cannot or have not. He speaks their language. With some luck, and after he gets over the spotlight and the problems his caucus might give him, he may very well be able to get us the Republican votes we need.

Full disclosure, I do not know Rep. Fleck, nor do I believe I’ve met him. In the last few days, those who do know him tell me he’s a decent guy and well-liked in Harrisburg. And if you’ve read the account of his decision to come out, it seems to have been a hard, rocky road.

Rep. Fleck did something very brave, as all elected officials do when they come out or when they run as out candidates. They all need to be embraced. We are a welcoming community and not one with only one stripe.

We also should not be putting any pressure on this man at this time. After all, he is a man with much on his plate. He’s dealing with his family, friends, coworkers and an enormous amount of media attention. Allow him the time to come to terms with all this.

While we do not know what or how this will affect future legislation, we do know that the Republican Party now has one of its own to put a face on the LGBT community.

And that is a very good thing.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at mark@epgn.com.

Comments
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chris1976
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December 09, 2012
"He’s conservative. Again, so what? In fact, this is the strongest argument to support him." Hmm... not really.

You see, to many of us LGBT rights and inclusion is just one of the many issues we face in this country. Some of us have to deal with other issues such as appropriate health care, immigration reform, choice for women, to name a few.

I cannot just think "Hey, he's gay, he's on my side". I cannot just pretend that he belong to the same party than Sarah Palin, Anne Coulter, Donald Trump, Mitt Romney and John McCain, not to mention the freak show of Tea partiers that are in his same party.

What is his standing on women's right to choice? What is his record regarding immigration reform? What is he doing to improve HIV/AIDS issues, from proper access to drug policy to preventions education? What is he doing about the General Assistance cuts? None of these issues are going to magically disappear from my mind just because he announced that he's gay.

It really is a hard sell to try to get me to think that just because the guy is gay he's automatically (a) on my side (b) caring about all the issues that the LGBT community face every day and (c) supporting all other non-LGBT issues and challenges that we all face as American citizens.

My reply is: He's gay, so what?
Lynn Cockett
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December 08, 2012
Mark, Thanks for the good article. Mike is a great guy and cares deeply about his constituents. He and I have joked for years about whether or not I'd vote for him (I tell him all the time, "not til you change your views on women's rights to control their own bodies"). His good nature and ability to be friendly and thoughtful will everyone...from his most conservative Christian constituents to his most liberal feminist ... is one of the things that has been on his side. I hope people here in the 81st district continue to support him.