Following a recent incident where two gay men were allegedly beaten in Philadelphia, one state senator made public his sexual orientation during a press conference against LGBT hate crimes.
“I’m gay. Get over it. I love it. It’s a great life,” Democratic State Sen. Jim Ferlo of Pennsylvania said Tuesday to applause from the crowd. He had requested that the audience allow him time to make a personal comment before the event continued, according to an audio recording from Mary Wilson of the state’s WITF broadcasting.
Ferlo continued to say he has never denied his homosexuality, which he said he has practiced since he was in his mid-20s. He also said his friends, co-workers, and members of the media and his community previously knew he was gay, but he never made it an official declaration until this week.
Ferlo is his state’s first openly gay member. He is a sponsor of a bill that would expand the definition of hate crimes in Pennsylvania to cover LGBT individuals. The recent attack involving two gay men took place on Sept. 11, shocking the local community and igniting a conversation about both crowd-sourced investigations and Pennsylvania’s hate-crime statute. The current law does not include specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Pennsylvania became the last northeastern state to embrace same-sex nuptials earlier this year when a judge struck down its 18-year-old law banning gay marriage. The decision marked another milestone in the effort for full civil rights for LGBT Americans. Following the court’s ruling, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett stated that he would not continue the legal battle to ban marriage equality.
The Keystone State enacted the legislation in 1996, the same year that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) became law. Last summer, though, the U.S. Supreme Court brought an end to DOMA by ruling it unconstitutional.
Support for same-sex marriage has grown steadily since the beginning of the century, when Americans opposed gay rights by a 57% to 35% margin. But, in a recent Pew Research Center poll, a majority of citizens – 54% – said they favored marriage equality.
Ferlo will not run for reelection in this year’s midterm elections.