Pennsylvania State Rep. Mike Fleck is battling to maintain his seat in the first election since he publicly announced his homosexuality in 2012.
Fleck, a Republican, became the first openly gay member of the state legislature two years ago when he told his local newspaper that his sexual orientation wouldn’t alter his role. He was first elected to the state’s House of Representatives in 2006, and ran unopposed until this year.
Now, the four-term Republican is facing a serious challenge from a write-in candidate, presumably Richard Irvin, treasurer of a local county. Irvin’s original petition to be on the ballot was thrown out after he failed to file a financial disclosure form, according to local media reports. Officials throughout the weekend continued to count votes for the close election, and an outcome is expected on Tuesday.
Fleck’s personal decision to make his sexual orientation public was a mistake, according to Republican State Sen. John Eichelberger Jr.
“If [Fleck] had just gone about his business and people thought he was a homosexual or heterosexual or whatever, there wouldn’t be a problem,” Eichelberger told the Altoona Mirror.
“A lot of people thought that Mike was a homosexual,” Eichelberger added. “He didn’t announce it and it was OK. The feeling from many people is, he put them in a very uncomfortable position.”
The election came as a federal judge in Pennsylvania last week vowed to strike down the state’s 18-year-old gay marriage ban, making it the 19th to allow same-sex weddings. The Keystone State is the last in the Northeast to embrace same-sex nuptials.