Former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is Gay: The Hill is Alive With the Sound of Gay-Friendly Republicans

Ken Mehlman, who was RNC Chairman between 2005 and 2007 as well as George W. Bush’s campaign manager in 2004, has announced that he’s gay. He says that this knowledge of his identity is fairly new, and he’s only come out to friends and family in the past few months. During his time with the Bush campaign, he generally worked to avoid and undercut social issues, and worked to expand the Republican party’s message to groups it hadn’t traditionally appealed to, like Latino/a voters. In recent months, he’s also been working as a strategist and fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which legally opposes Prop 8. He’s agreed to answer questions on his private life in order to become an advocate for gay marriage, and says he wishes that he had been in this place earlier in his life so that he could work towards marriage equality from within a high place in the party. (@nytimes)

Mehlman has been open to sharing with reporters how he arrived at this moment, and how he feels it impacts him both personally and politically:

“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life… 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.”

(@huffpo)

In a time where scandalous reveals of conservative leaders’ long-repressed homosexuality dominate the news, it’s heartening and refreshing to see someone who came to this realization about himself on his own terms and in a healthy way, and has been able to reconcile it with his political identity – he is now the most prominent Republican official to come out as gay or lesbian.

Also, this comes amid a bizarre mini-wave of conservative ‘support‘ for gay causes. But it’s also not bizarre, because gay causes make total sense — Judge Vaughn Walker, our Prop 8 hero, was appointed by George HW Bush and has gone conservative historically. We were represented in the Prop 8 case by the same lawyer who represented Bush in Bush v. Gore. Senator Roy Ashburn was caught being gay a few months ago and instead of backpedaling, he just came out and apologized. ARE THINGS HAPPENING IN UNLIKELY PLACES all over the place?!

One must wonder when it comes to their heart of hearts, do the Republicans truly believe what they preach against the gays or is it just that the Ultra-Conservative Right Wing is — well — easy? when you need a big chunk of votes in your pocket, that’s a good place to get them and all you need to do is say you support marriage between a man and a woman. Look at McCain’s flip-flopping on the issue, fore example.

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Not all of Mehlman’s party is supportive – old friend and another former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie was quoted as saying “I think most Republicans believe as I do that marriage is between one man and one woman,” he said, “and will continue to believe that,” we’re proud of Mr. Mehlman for sharing his truth and representing our community, and we wish him the best of luck.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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15 Comments

  1. I’m somewhat disappointed that he didn’t use this when he was RNC chairman instead of following the party line on LGBT issues.

    However, it doesn’t sound like he was particularly hellbent on persecuting gays either, so I sincerely wish him the best of luck and I’m happy he’s come to terms with who he is.

  2. I’m happy that Ken Mehlman came out. But I wouldn’t exactly call him a gay friendly Republican. Bush’s 2004 campaign was pretty overtly anti-gay, and as it says here, Mehlman was the campaign manager. As in, he was in charge of all of that. It was an open secret that he was gay, even at that time. But it’s never too late to do the right thing, I guess. Welcome to team out-of-the-closet, Ken Mehlman!

  3. While I’m glad the guy came out, his anti-gay past is getting rainbow-washed. I concur with Brklyngrl, the GOP campaign while he was campaign manager was crazy anti-gay…intentionally so. The GOP put gay marriage bans on the ballots specifically to drive homophobic conservatives to the polls. It wasn’t like “oops, half of the country things homosexuality should be criminalized again.” Scaring straight people with queer getting married was a tactic for the GOP.

    I don’t want to continue hating the guy (I’m mostly sad for his tragic self-loathing past life), but I also don’t want to see history re-written. This is the story of a man who was anti-gay (even towards himself) and changed. It’s not the story of a clueless, apathetic politician who suddenly realized he ought to do something.

  4. This guy is a coward. I know I should be better than that like Kwan Yin would want, but I just can’t. I understand, empathize, and feel bad for his upbringing, but he’s a full-grown man and he CHOSE to not come out. Sure, social pressure is a horrible, debilitating thing, but once it’s an “open secret,” own up unless you’d rather keep your privilege while still enjoying sex with dudes.

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