DiSanto Thanks PHMC for Removing Undeserved Historical Marker

Harrisburg – Senator John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry) today thanked members of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) for voting unanimously to remove a recently installed historical marker in Harrisburg. DiSanto had notified the PHMC of his objections in December 2021 and attended today’s PHMC meeting in Bucks County to make his case to commissioners directly.

On or about October 10, 2021, a historical marker was dedicated by PHMC at 205 State Street in Harrisburg to recognize Richard Schlegel, who was born in Berrysburg, Dauphin County. The text of the marker is as follows: Fired from federal and state jobs because he was gay, this trail-blazing activist took his job discrimination case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He lost, but his key arguments were valuable in later cases. In 1965, he founded the first LGBTQ+ group in central Pa.

DiSanto was alerted by a constituent about an interview that Mr. Schlegel gave in May 1993 at the age of 66. It can be found online at: https://outhistory.org/exhibits/show/philadelphia-lgbt-interviews/int/richard-schlegel (WARNING – This link contains explicit language.) In this interview, Mr. Schlegel discusses activity of a sexual nature that he, as a sixteen-year-old, engaged in with a younger boy, “eleven, twelve maybe.”

DiSanto told the PHMC he “was shocked and disgusted to read this account that sounds like predatory, grooming behavior from Mr. Schlegel, who admitted he himself ‘was the aggressor.’ Especially disappointing, Mr. Schlegel, as a 66-year-old man, rather than expressing any sort of remorse about putting the younger child in this situation, conveyed regret at not physically touching the boy, saying ‘I certainly wouldn’t make that mistake twice, because he was so cute.’”

Among other alarming admissions by Mr. Schlegel, he made light of a victim of underage pornography who was assaulted and photographed by an associate of Mr. Schlegel. Mr. Schlegel did, however, express his continued sympathy for his associate, the pornographer who was convicted and served several years in prison.

In the interview, Mr. Schlegel also expressed a terroristic threat towards a former public official, LeRoy Zimmerman, a Dauphin County District Attorney and later State Attorney General—“Remember I have this block about Zimmerman because I thought of even killing that man. And I think I would have the capacity, even today, if the opportunity was presented, to kill him.”

Regarding the LGBT Center of Central PA’s opposition to the marker removal (the Center had been the marker’s sponsor) and derogatory comments about Sen. DiSanto, DiSanto said, “as a Catholic, I am disgusted with the priests in my church who sexually abused children entrusted with their care and I don’t think they deserve to be put on a pedestal, so I am utterly perplexed about why the LGBT Center would rally around Mr. Schlegel.”

Prior to the PHMC vote, DiSanto told commissioners “Mr. Schlegel, by his own admission, was involved directly in, and dismissive of victims impacted by, child sexual abuse and child pornography. We can certainly debate Mr. Schlegel’s life and historical legacy, but we don’t need to celebrate him. We need to unite, and stand for the protection of children, not their exploitation.”

Attachments:

  1. DiSanto letter to PHMC 12/20/21
  2. DiSanto follow-up letter to PHMC 5/4/22

CONTACT: Chuck Erdman cerdman@pasen.gov (717) 787-6801