In December 2012,State Representative Mike Fleck, a republican from rural Pennsylvania, publicly acknowledged that he was gay, which made him the first openly gay state representative to serve in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Then the following session, State Representative Brian Sims became the first openly gay candidate to get elected to the Pennsylvania House and joined Mike Fleck as the only two openly gay representatives in the state assembly. Brian Sims, a democrat from Philadelphia, doesn’t have to worry about losing his seat because of his sexuality, but being from conservative, rural Pennsylvania, Mike Fleck has a lot more to lose.
Last week’s primary showed that Mike Fleck will probably lose his house seat to a write-in candidate because he is gay in rural, conservative Pennsylvania. As Buzzfeed reported, Mike Fleck posted the following on his Facebook page:
I knew that when I came out this race would be nothing more, nothing less than whether my constituency could wrap their mind around the fact that I was a gay man.One person who thinks that this whole entire situation could have been avoided was State Senator John Eichelberger. On Sunday, Fleck posted a picture on his facebook page, which can been seen below, that quotes Eichelberger saying:
“A lot of people thought Mike was a homosexual [before 2012]… If he had just gone out of his business and people thought he was a homosexual or heterosexual or whatever, there wouldn’t be a problem.”This is what Fleck posted on his facebook page when talking about the story:
Excellent story front page article in today’s Altoona Mirror. According to Senator Eichelberger it’s okay to be gay just don’t tell anyone.The quote from John Eichelberger appeared in the Altoona Mirror, and due to a paywall, this article is not available to the general public. But wow, what a choice of words coming from your republican colleague. If only Mike Fleck had stayed in the closet, his write in challenger wouldn’t have received 3,700 votes. The type of thinking from Senator Eichelberger, and Daryl Metclafe, represent a larger problem when advancing gay rights in Pennsylvania. Last week, a federal judge lifted Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban, but the statements coming from Senator Eichelberger and Representative Metcalfe have demonstrated how far the Commonwealth still has to go when granting basic human rights to LGBTQ members. Pennsylvania still allows employers to fire LGBTQ members simply because they are gay, and two of the people trying to kill that bill, House Bill 300, are Senator Eichelberger and Representative Metcalfe. In the Senate, Eichelberger tried adding an amendment to bill defining marriage as something between one man and one woman, and in the House, House Speaker Sam Smith sent the bill to die in State Representative Daryl Metcalfe’s State Government Committee. In response to House Bill 300, Metcalfe also introduced a constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman.