Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and the campaign manager who helped win a second term for President George W. Bush on his anti-gay marriage platform has announced that he is homosexual.
During his tenure as chairman of the RNC, the party’s strategists encouraged state referendums banning same-sex marriage, but Mehlman now says he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage.
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” Mehlman said in an interview with Atlantic magazine.
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“Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive.
“The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Mehlman is widely considered one of the key architects of the Bush-era Republican election machine that exploited anti-gay prejudices to motivate its conservative base. His revelation comes after years of speculation, and to date is the highest-profile national Republican figure to come out as gay.
Mike Rogers, a gay rights best known for his activity in outing closeted gay politicians who actively oppose gay rights, and whose work inspired the 2009 documentary “Outrage,” wrote on his blog that Bush’s 2004 election campaign was “the most homophobic national campaign in history. That campaign was run by one of the nation’s worst closeted individuals, Ken Mehlman.”
“I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally,” said Mehlman.
He adds that he “‘really wished’ he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, ‘so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]’ and ‘reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.'”
Mehlman said he is now working to raise money for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is backing the legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage narrowly passed in 2008.