Baltimorean Mehlman, former RNC chair, comes out
Ken Mehlman, the Baltimore native who served as a campaign manager for President George W. Bush in 2004 and chaired the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007, has told family and associates he is gay, the Atlantic reports in an online article.
Marc Armbinder, politics editor at the Atlantic, calls Mehlman “the most powerful Republican in history to identify as gay.”
Mehlman tells Armbinder that he agreed to answer questions about his sexuality he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a fundraiser next month for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that supported the legal challenge to California's ban on same-sex marriage.
"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," Mehlman says. "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."
As Armbinder writes, Mehlman's ascent in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities:
Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush's chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.
Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
"It's a legitimate question and one I understand," Mehlman said. "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."
Indeed, Mehlman’s coming out already has sparked debate in the gay community.
“The three people most responsible for the anti-gay actions of the Bush reelection campaign are Mehlman, Karl Rove and Bush,” blogs gay activist Mike Rogers, who had long pressed Mehlman to clairfy his sexual orientation. “Ken Mehlman is horridly homophobic and no matter how orchestrated his coming out is, our community should hold him accountable for his past.”
The executive director of Log Cabin Republicans said the organization was “supportive and appreciative” of Mehlman’s disclosure. Log Cabin Republicans says it promotes legislation to provide basic fairness for gay and lesbian Americans and works to build a more inclusive GOP.
"As a fellow Bush alumnus, I look forward to Ken helping me and our colleagues build a stronger and more inclusive Republican Party,” executive director R. Clarke Cooper said. “I am happy that Ken has come to a place where he can take a stand with integrity, and I welcome him as yet another conservative, common-sense voice to join with Log Cabin Republicans and all Americans in this important dialogue."
"The process of coming out, and certainly coming out in the public eye, is never an easy one, but I am glad that Ken has decided to take this step and am glad that he is doing so on behalf of the fight for equality," added Republican former Rep. Jim Kolbe.
"Ken joins a chorus that includes Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, Ted Olson, and countless others advocating for the American value of inclusion," Kolbe said. "This is not a time for playing politics; it is a time for us all to join together – Republicans and Democrats – to repeal the failed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, to pass workplace non-discrimination, and to recognize all committed relationships."