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Gay Pa. Republican wins Dem nomination

Mike Fleck, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon County) narrowly won the Democratic nomination to appear on the November ballot after losing the Republican primary to a write-in candidate. (Photo courtesy of Fleck)

THREE SPRINGS, Pa. — A gay state representative who is the only out Republican in the Pennsylvania Legislature and the first openly gay state lawmaker there, will appear on the November ballot as a Democrat after he narrowly lost to a primary opponent.

Huntingdon County Treasurer Richard Irvin defeated state Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon County) on May 20 after he staged a successful write-in campaign. The Patriot-News on May 27 reported that Fleck won the Democratic nomination to appear on the November ballot by a 901-886 vote margin.

“Thank you to the 15 democrats who put me over the top on the democratic write-in,” wrote Fleck on his Facebook page on May 27. “And thank you to the three thousand plus republicans who voted based on my job performance. While a lot can still happen legally, today is a new day and if we are ultimately successful in our bid to continue thru the fall, rest assured, I will give it my all.”

Fleck, who was first elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2006, came out in 2012 during an interview with a local newspaper.

He told the Patriot-News on May 27 he feels his opponents voted against him because of his sexual orientation.

“I think we all know what the race was about,” said Fleck. “For the most part it was a vote against me, not necessarily a vote for [Irvin.]“


Pennsylvania lawmakers to introduce same-sex marriage bill

Brian Sims, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Pennsylvania lawmakers on Thursday will introduce a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state.

State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) and Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery County) made the formal announcement during a press conference in Philadelphia. State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County,) who introduced his own same-sex measure in the Pennsylvania Senate in May, is among the other lawmakers who also attended.

“This legislation ensures that LGBT people, just like me, are one step closer to realizing the promise of a state and local Constitution that guarantees that our rights and our lives are equal to anyone else’s,” Sims told the Washington Blade late on Wednesday.

McCarter added he feels this issue is more than extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

“This is about ensuring all Pennsylvanians have equal benefits and protections before the law,” he said. “Marriage equality and the benefits associated with it need to be afforded to all of our citizens.”

Neighboring Maryland, Delaware and New York are among the 13 states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

The American Civil Liberties Union in July filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s statutory gay marriage ban on behalf of 11 same-sex couples and a widow.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane subsequently announced she would not defend the law in court. Governor Tom Corbett has said his administration would defend the same-sex marriage ban.

Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes in July began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Braddock Mayor John Fetterman in August officiated a gay couple’s wedding at his suburban Pittsburgh home.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini last month ruled that Hanes cannot issue additional marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Hanes, who issued marriage licenses to 118 same-sex couples before Pellegrini issued his injunction, has appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

A Franklin and Marshall College poll in May found 54 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage, compared to 41 percent who oppose the issue. The same institution in August released a survey in which 76 percent of respondents said in response to a question about Harris’ decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples that it is unacceptable for state and local officials to ignore laws with which they disagree.

Gay nuptials measure has more than 30 co-sponsors

The same-sex marriage bill has bi-partisan support with 34 co-sponsors. They include state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Alleghany County) who co-chairs the LGBT Equality Caucus and state Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester County.)

State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon County,) who came out as gay last December, has yet to co-sponsor the measure.

Pennsylvania is among the 29 states without an LGBT-inclusive statewide anti-discrimination law, although lawmakers in May introduced two bills that would protect commonwealth residents in housing, employment and public accommodation based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Legislators in January also introduced an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying measure and bills that would add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law.

Sims remains optimistic lawmakers will approve the same-sex marriage measure.

“There is no question, even among the opposition, that marriage equality will become the law of the land,” he told the Blade. “The larger question of ‘when’ depends on how much pressure the governor and the Republican legislature feel during the election cycle.”


Pennsylvania governor backs anti-discrimination bill

Tom Corbett, Republican Party, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Tom Corbett (R-Pa.) (Photo public domain)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday said he supports a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in the commonwealth.

“I’ve had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against,” the Republican told the Philadelphia Inquirer as he discussed House Bill 300. “The federal government has anti-discrimination laws. I believed they covered it.”

Gay state Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon) is among the 118 state lawmakers who have co-sponsored HB 300 or an identical measure in the Pennsylvania Senate.

“I’m excited that Gov. Corbett is on board,” Fleck told the Washington Blade on Wednesday. “Whether people agree or disagree on sexual orientation, the vast majority feel it’s wrong to discriminate.”

Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, added Corbett “showed leadership” with his announcement.

“His support for this bill underscores that people of Pennsylvania understand that while we may not all have the same views and beliefs, we all deserve to be able to earn a living to support ourselves, to support our families and to contribute to society,” said Martin in a statement.

Philadelphia and 32 other Pennsylvania municipalities have adopted anti-discrimination laws that include both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Neighboring Delaware and New Jersey are among the 17 states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that have added LGBT-specific language to their statewide statutes. New York and Maryland’s anti-discrimination laws only include sexual orientation.

A Susquehanna Polling and Research survey in May found 72 percent of Pennsylvanians back the anti-LGBT discrimination bills.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) who chairs the House State Government Committee remains opposed to HB 300. Corbett told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he does not know how he would overcome the conservative Republican’s stance against the measure.

The governor also said during the interview that his position against marriage rights for same-sex couples “hasn’t changed.”

The American Civil Liberties Union in July filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s statutory gay nuptials ban on behalf of 11 same-sex couples and a widow. Corbett subsequently announced his administration would defend the same-sex marriage ban in court.

The governor in October sparked outrage among LGBT rights advocates when he compared same-sex marriage to incest during an interview with a Harrisburg television station. Corbett subsequently apologized for his comments.


Pa. lawmakers introduce non-discrimination bill

Brian Sims, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Rep. Brian Sims is co-sponsoring a non-discrimination bill in Pennsylvania. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

HARRISBURG, Pa.—Pennsylvania lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations in the commonwealth.

Gay state Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) co-sponsored the Pennsylvania Non-Discrimination Act alongside state Reps. Dan Frankel (D-Pittsburgh) and Chris Ross (R-Kennett Square) and state Sens. Daylin Leach (D-Wayne,) Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) and Pat Browne (R-Allentown) in their respective chambers.

“I’ve been prepping for this, like many of my colleagues, for a long time,” Sims said.

Philadelphia Weekly reported state Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Three Springs,) who came out as gay late last year, also attended the Harrisburg press conference at which Sims and other legislators formally introduced the bill.


Year in review: Better late than never: Anderson Cooper comes out

Anderson Cooper, CNN, gay news, Washington Blade

Anderson Cooper (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A number of celebrities, politicians and other officials came out during 2012.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper publicly acknowledged being gay for the first time in a statement gay commentator Andrew Sullivan posted to his blog on July 2. Sam Champion, weather anchor for “Good Morning America,” announced on-air in October that he was engaged to his long-time partner, photographer Rubem Robierb. (The couple attended a Freedom to Marry fundraiser in Miami Beach, Fla., a few days later.)

Gay singer Ricky Martin was among those who applauded Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz after he came out on Oct. 3. R&B singer Frank Ocean in July acknowledged his homosexuality, while Jamaican singer Diana King came out on her Facebook page in June. British singer Mika told Instinct Magazine in August he is gay.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Fleck, a Republican who attended Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., earlier this month came out during an interview with a local newspaper. Stefany Hoyer Hemmer, daughter of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.,) came out as a lesbian during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade in June.

“My father, as you know, just came out in support of gay marriage,” she said. “The momentum in Maryland right now for the adoption of the gay marriage law is fast-paced. I’m 43 years of age, and I’ve been gay my whole life and I just figured this is a good time to lend my name to the cause.”

DC Comics in June announced the Green Lantern is gay as part of its effort to reinvigorate the “Earth 2” series.