by Rex Wockner
Ken Mehlman, George W. Bush's 2004 campaign chief and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, came out as gay Aug. 25 in an interview with The Atlantic.
He is the most powerful Republican in history to openly identify as gay, and previously had denied being gay in published reports.
"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," Mehlman said. "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's leadership positions in the GOP came during the party's most anti-gay period. He was George W. Bush's political director during Bush's first term as president, served as Bush-Cheney campaign manager in the homophobic 2004 campaign and chaired the RNC from 2005 to 2007.
"His tenure as RNC chairman and his time at the center of the Bush political machine coincided with the Republican Party's attempts to exploit anti-gay prejudices and cement the allegiance of social conservatives," The Atlantic said.
Raw Story noted, "Some believe Bush's support for anti-gay marriage measures carried him to victory (in 2004), particularly in Ohio, which had a gay marriage measure on the ballot."
The Atlantic reported that Mehlman has been making amends behind the scenes on exactly that issue, revealing that he is significantly involved in California's Proposition 8 federal lawsuit masterminded by the American Foundation for Equal Rights and superstar attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies.
AFER's Chad Griffin said Mehlman's contributions to the group have been "tremendous." And later this month, Mehlman is chairing a major AFER fundraiser that already has raised $1 million, Griffin told the Towleroad blog.
"When we achieve … equality, he will be one of the people to thank for it," Griffin stated.
But as praiseworthy as such moves may be, some of Mehlman's homosexual brothers are demanding more.
Blogger Mike Rogers, who leaked the story of Mehlman's coming out just before The Atlantic released it, wrote: "Ken Mehlman is horridly homophobic and no matter how orchestrated his coming out is, our community should hold him accountable for his past. … I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for being the architect of the 2004 Bush reelection campaign. … I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for the pressing of two Federal Marriage Amendments as political tools. … And those state marriage amendments. I want to hear him apologize for every one of those, too."
Blogger Joe. My. God. picked up Rogers' post and called Mehlman a "repulsive … homophobic scumbag asshat."
Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors commented: "I'm glad he finally came out and glad he's raising money and working to undo the tremendous damage he did to LGBT people. He needs to acknowledge the damage he caused and apologize for the lives he's ruined, raise millions of dollars to overturn every one of the state constitutional amendments (banning same-sex marriage that) he helped pass and spend the rest of his life working to achieve equality and justice for the community he is part of that he used for selfish political purposes."
Kors said Mehlman also should urge George W. Bush to join his wife, Laura, in supporting legalization of same-sex marriage.