Ken Mehlman, former Republican National Committee chair and campaign manager for Bush-Cheney in 2004, came out as gay in a stupefying interview with the Atlantic on Wednesday.
In it, Mehlman says he only recently realized he’s gay — an absurd claim — and insists that he worked behind the scenes to beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage during the Bush years. That’s a staggering claim from someone who presided over a campaign that exploited homophobia to advance constitutional amendments in 11 states banning same-sex marriage.
Now, long after leaving the public eye and public service, Mehlman wants our collective “understanding” because “everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey.”
True, but for most of us, the journey didn’t involve working side-by-side with those who fought to enshrine our second-class status in the U.S. Constitution, not to mention what Bush-Cheney did to advance the cause of torture.
Mehlman is the Roy Cohn of his generation, quietly enabling some of the most damaging attacks on LGBT people and our families. But some of the most prominent voices in the movement seem to have amnesia about that past. Chad Griffin and Dustin Lance Black of the American Foundation for Equal Rights are singing Mehlman’s praises. Griffin told the Atlantic, “when we achieve equal equality, he will be one of the people to thank for it.” Really? Mehlman will need to devote the rest of his life to undoing the damage he helped foster before he earns any thanks. It turns out that Mehlman is helping to raise money for AFER, so the praise is predictable and hollow.
Mehlman’s sexual orientation was the subject of rumors for years and the Blade looked into the story numerous times. He dodged the question and flat out denied it on several occasions. We were alternately accused of covering up to protect his secret or propagating salacious gossip. Neither was true; Mehlman remained deeply closeted during his reign of terror and former classmates and associates of his routinely described him as “asexual.”
The silver lining to this sickening hypocrisy is that the dominoes continue to fall, as more and more prominent Republicans take up the cause of gay rights and marriage equality. The party is headed for a reckoning in which it will need to address the hateful rhetoric about our families that has been a part of its national platform. How can party stalwarts like Mehlman, Cheney and Ted Olson advocate for marriage equality while their party stubbornly clings to its prejudice?
Indeed, it appears the country has reached a tipping point on the issue of gay rights. Too bad Mehlman arrived so late to the party.