Connect with us

Politics

Republican Pa. state lawmaker comes out

Fleck says he’s still ‘a servant of God and the public’

Published

on

Mike Fleck, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade
Mike Fleck, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Fleck (Photo courtesy of www.repfleck.com)

A Republican state lawmaker in Pennsylvania came out in an interview a local newspaper published on Saturday.

“Coming out is hard enough, but doing it in the public eye is definitely something I never anticipated,” state Rep. Mike Fleck told the Huntingdon (Pa.) Daily News. “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.”

Fleck, who became an Eagle Scout in 1991, has represented portions of Blair, Huntingdon and Mifflin Counties in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since voters first elected him in Nov. 2006. The 1995 graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., became a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America once he earned his degree in history with a minor in youth ministry and returned to Huntington County in central Pennsylvania.

The organization in July reaffirmed its ban on out members and openly gay scoutmasters and troop leaders. Fleck told the Huntingdon Daily News his “livelihood depended on hiding my true sexual orientation, something I was very good at.”

The newspaper further reported Fleck suppressed his homosexuality throughout his 20s. He married his wife in 2002 after they dated for two years.

“She was everything I could have ever asked for and to this day she is still my best friend,” Fleck told the Huntingdon Daily News. “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.”

The newspaper reported that Fleck and his wife separated last year — he said they “became closer than ever before, but it was bittersweet as we both concluded that the marriage was over.” Fleck told the Huntingdon Daily News he continues to reconcile his homosexuality with his Christian faith.

“Through years of counseling, I’ve met a lot of gay Christians 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 told the newspaper. “They’ve only succeeded at repressing their identity, only to have it reappear time and time again and always wreaking havoc not only on themselves, but especially on their family.”

Fleck came out less than seven months after Philadelphia lawyer Brian Sims became the first openly gay person elected to the state legislature when he won a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Tim Brown will be the only other openly gay Republican state lawmaker in the country who’s poised to take a seat. He won election to the Ohio House of Representatives on Nov. 6.

Former Massachusetts lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Richard Tisei last month narrowly lost against incumbent Congressman John Tierney.

Fleck did not immediately return the Washington Blade’s requests for comment, but LGBT advocates in Pennsylvania and across the country welcomed his decision to come out.

“It is definitely quite a big deal,” Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, told the Blade earlier on Monday. “Along with Brian [Sims] we’ll have now two openly gay legislators, so for a state like Pennsylvania that just voted Brian in in May it’s pretty remarkable.”

Victory Fund CEO Chuck Wolfe agreed.

“Coming out is never easy, but coming out in the public eye is particularly difficult,” he said, noting the Victory Fund worked with Fleck through his coming out process. “Representative Fleck made a difficult decision to be honest and open with his constituents and colleagues, and that has the power to change hearts and minds. We applaud his courage.”

“State Representative Mike Fleck is to be commended for his honesty,” Casey Pick of Log Cabin Republicans added. “The journey is never easy, but by coming out Rep. Fleck puts a human face on these issues, demonstrating that you can be a conservative, a person of faith and a good Republican while also a member of the LGBT community. Having an openly gay member of the Republican caucus in Pennsylvania brings us that much closer to achieving freedom and equality under the law.”

Martin said he hopes to discuss efforts to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Pennsylvania and to fight bullying in the commonwealth with Fleck when they meet in the near future. He noted state law does not protect the newly out lawmaker and other gay Pennsylvanians from housing discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

“My hope is that this will actually in a larger way cause people to talk about issues in Pennsylvania just like that,” he said, specifically referring to anti-bullying and anti-discrimination efforts. “My hope is that it will give people some ability to start saying, you know what, we’ve ignored these issues for long in the legislature and in many different ways in Pennsylvania that we need to start thinking about them.”

Sims, who told the Blade he has spoken with Fleck several times in recent days, stressed the same point.

“Pennsylvania doesn’t have LGBT non-discrimination,” he said. “We’ve seen in some other states that Republicans can get behind the idea of statewide LGBT non-discrimination and I’m hoping that Rep. Fleck gives us an opportunity to really speak directly to the leadership in the state about why this is so important.”

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Politics

Laphonza Butler appointed as California’s first openly LGBTQ U.S. senator

Dianne Feinstein died in D.C. on Sept. 28

Published

on

EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler speaking at EMILYs List's annual We Are EMILY National Gala, May 16, 2023. (Photo Credit: EMILY’s List/Facebook)

On Sunday evening, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he is appointing Black openly lesbian EMILY’s List President, Laphonza Butler, to the vacant seat of the late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein who died Friday at age 90.

Butler’s wife is Neneki Lee, the D.C.-based director for labor union SEIU’s Public Services Division.

News of Butler’s selection by Newsom was first reported by Politico’s California Bureau Chief Christopher Cadelago. A source knowledgeable on the governor’s team told Politico there were no preconditions about whether she could run in 2024.

Newsom’s office confirmed that he has picked Butler, a Democratic strategist who rose to prominence in the labor movement, to fill Feinstein’s seat.

In an emailed statement, Newsom said:

“An advocate for women and girls, a second-generation fighter for working people, and a trusted adviser to Vice President Harris, Laphonza Butler represents the best of California, and she’ll represent us proudly in the U.S. Senate. As we mourn the enormous loss of Senator Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for — reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence — have never been under greater assault. Laphonza will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C.” 

Equality California tweeted a statement praising Newsom’s action:

Democrat Alex Padilla, now serving as California’s senior U.S. senator, released the following statement after Newsom appointed Butler to fill the vacancy created by the late Senator Feinstein: 

“Throughout her career, Laphonza Butler has been a strong voice for working families, LGBTQ rights, and a champion for increasing women’s representation in politics. I’m honored to welcome her to the United States Senate.

“Governor Newsom’s swift action ensures that Californians maintain full representation in the Senate as we navigate a narrow Democratic majority. I look forward to working together to deliver for the people of California.” 

Butler is a longtime leader in Democratic politics in California and beyond. She has been involved in campaign strategy, and the labor movement for two decades, and according to her official biography she has dedicated her life to empowering women and supporting them in finding their voice, and using it to make meaningful change.

Newsom’s office noted in its statement:

“Butler, a longtime senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris, labor leader and advocate for women and working people, will be the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate. She will also be the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress in American history and the second Black woman to represent California in the Senate following Vice President Kamala Harris.”

Prior to joining EMILYs List, Butler served as Director of Public Policy and Campaigns in North America for Airbnb. She also was a partner at SCRB Strategies, a political consulting firm where she was a strategist for candidates running up and down the ballot and a senior advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign.

With nearly 20 years in the labor movement, Butler has served as the president of the biggest union in California, and the nation’s largest home care workers union, SEIU Local 2015. She was elected to this position at just 30 years old, one of the youngest to take on this role. As president, Butler was the leading voice, strategist, and architect of efforts to address pay inequity for women in California and a top advocate for raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour — the first state in the nation to do so, benefiting millions of working women in low wage jobs. That effort also gave hundreds of thousands of home workers access to paid time off. She also served as an SEIU International Vice President and President of the SEIU California State Council.

Throughout her career, Butler has been highly regarded as a strategist working to elect Democratic women candidates in political offices across California and nationally. A long-time supporter of Kamala Harris in her California runs, Butler was a key leader in Vice President Harris’ presidential campaign. She served as a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in California during the primary and general elections. Most recently, Butler was a campaign operative behind the campaign to make the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors all-women for the first time in its history with the election of Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

She has been a member of the University of California Board of Regents and a member of the board of directors for the Children’s Defense Fund and BLACK PAC.

Laphonza grew up in Magnolia, Miss., and attended one of the country’s premier HBCUs, Jackson State University. She lives in Maryland with her wife, Neneki, and together they have a daughter, Nylah.

EMILY’s List is an American political action committee that aims to help elect Democratic female candidates in favor of abortion rights to office. It was founded by Ellen Malcolm in 1985. The group’s name is an acronym for “Early Money Is Like Yeast.” Malcolm commented that “it makes the dough rise.”

Newsom appoints Laphonza Butler to the U.S. Senate:

Continue Reading

Congress

Shutdown averted with bipartisan bill over objections of far-right House caucus

45-day continuing resolution passed 335-91.

Published

on

U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) (Screen capture/PBS News)

The U.S. House on Saturday approved a 45-day continuing resolution that, should the Senate approve the stopgap measure, as expected, will avert a government shutdown.

In a stunning turn of events, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats backed the proposal, H.R. 5860 advanced by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which was passed with a vote of 335-91.

Ninety Republicans and one Democrat voted against the continuing resolution which, in addition to funding U.S. government agencies through mid-November, will provide billions in disaster relief .

Screenshot/C-SPAN

Democrats agreed to the bill even though it did not contain U.S. aid to Ukraine. Still, the most conservative members of McCarthy’s caucus have warned they would replace their speaker if he cooperated with Democrats on a deal to avoid a shutdown.

In recent weeks, these members advanced far-right anti-LGBTQ amendments to spending packages that stood no chance of becoming law.

The Senate voted 88-9 to pass a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government at current levels through Nov. 17 and gives the Biden administration $16 billion it requested to assist victims of natural disasters.

“Bipartisanship, which has been the trademark of the Senate, has prevailed. And the American people can breathe a sigh of relief,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.

After the Senate voted late Saturday evening to pass the House stop-gap continuing resolution, the White House released the following statement from President Biden:

“Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the government open, preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans. This bill ensures that active-duty troops will continue to get paid, travelers will be spared airport delays, millions of women and children will continue to have access to vital nutrition assistance, and so much more. This is good news for the American people.

But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place. Just a few months ago, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis. For weeks, extreme House Republicans tried to walk away from that deal by demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans. They failed.

While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support. We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”

Biden is expected to sign the measure once it is delivered to the White House before the midnight deadline.

UPDATED:

On Saturday, September 30, 2023, the President signed into law:
 
H.R. 5860, which provides fiscal year appropriations to Federal agencies through November 17, 2023, for continuing projects of the Federal Government and extends several expiring authorities.

Continue Reading

Congress

McCarthy dealt another blow by far-right members seeking to replace him

Rep. Emmer denies he’s interested in becoming next Speaker

Published

on

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

After joining with the Democrats on Friday to sabotage House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (Calif.) plan to forestall a government shutdown with a last-ditch spending package, a group of far-right members are now focused on replacing him.

The stop-gap funding bill was defeated 232-198 with more than 20 Republicans voting against the measure.

House GOP sources tell the Washington Blade that removing McCarthy from the speaker’s chair is now a top priority, along with resisting pressure from Senate Republicans seeking to broker a deal to avoid allowing funding to lapse.

These sources confirmed reporting in the Washington Post about discussions of tapping U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.) to become the chamber’s top Republican, though the congressman told CBS Minnesota/WCCO News, “I fully support Speaker McCarthy. He knows that and I know that. I have zero interest in palace intrigue. End of discussion.”

While Emmer was among the 39 House Republicans who voted with the Democrats in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, which protects the rights of couples in same-sex marriages, in April he was among the more vocal members pushing for a federal ban to prohibit transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

In January, McCarthy narrowly secured his bid for the speakership after an unprecedented 15 votes from his caucus. Many of the same members now calling for his replacement demanded concessions, including conditioning their votes on McCarthy’s agreement to allow any member to call for a motion to vacate the chair at any time.

During the votes, which were held over a period of five days, other members like U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) were nominated for the position.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular