August 26, 2010 at 4:36 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Mehlman coming out draws mixed reactions

Ken Mehlman (Photo courtesy of

The coming out of former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman — who led the GOP at a time when the party was backing the Federal Marriage Amendment and marriage amendments in states throughout the country — is inspiring mixed reactions among LGBT advocates as some criticize him for his past actions and others welcome his new public support.

Mehlman’s announcement about his sexual orientation officially became public in an interview published Wednesday by the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder. According to the article, Mehlman told family and associates he’s gay and came to this conclusion fairly recently.

“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” Mehlman was quoted as saying. “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.”

Mehlman, who’s now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR, was RNC chair in 2004 when a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was a cornerstone of President Bush’s re-election campaign. During Mehlman’s tenure as chair, 21 states passed constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

Mehlman is now reportedly chairing a fundraiser against Proposition 8 for Americans for Equal Rights, the organization responsible for the federal lawsuit challenging California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Gay blogger Mike Rogers, who had reported in 2004 that Mehlman was gay, expressed particular displeasure and demanded that the former RNC chair apologize for his past actions.

“Many gay leaders will attempt to elbow themselves to the front of the line to say on cable TV how wonderful it is that Ken is now being honest with the American people,” Rogers writes. “Perhaps you’ll read a quote in the Washington Post about how ‘every gay person is on their own personal journey and we are happy Ken has decided to be so open about his personal struggle.’ … I’ll only buy it if he is really sorry.”

A number of LGBT organizations issued statements Wednesday that were supportive Mehlman.

Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said he was hoping to win Mehlman’s support on LGBT issues in the future.

“Coming out is a personal decision, and it can have a profound impact on families, friends, colleagues and constituents,” Wolfe said. “We hope the fact that Ken Mehlman has reached this level of honesty will now encourage other political leaders to reject divisive anti-gay campaign tactics which, as Mr. Mehlman now admits, are purely cynical attempts to manipulate the American public.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said his organization is “very supportive and appreciative of Ken’s coming out.”

“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,” Cooper said.

Michael Mitchell, president of the National Stonewall Democrats, said Mehlman’s story demonstrates “how damaging the closet can be when one puts ideology over personal integrity.”

“Mehlman presided over the Republican Party at a time when the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans were used to ill ends — marriage amendments in dozens of states, vitriolic attacks on our families, our soldiers, over very lives — all for political expediency, votes at the ballot box, and power.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Mehlman and that fat scumbag Karl Rove deliberately created a Republican campaign that attacked gay people and gay marriage in particular. He knew very well what he was doing, but didn’t care, because he was and still is a hate mongering Republican first. Even the Log Cabin failed to endorse Bush in 2004 thanks to his gay-bashing positions, (positions Mehlman supported).

  • How can you be coming out when everyone in DC knew you were gay?

    Had he denied it publicly ever?

  • How very telling… when Mehlman revealed his – umm – “desires”, he chose to NOT SUBJECT HIMSELF TO THE RIGHT-WING, ANTI-GAY MACHINE THAT HE HIMSELF HELPED CREATE (at least not right away). Gee, how very smart. Tricky. Savvy. Coldly calculating. Good thing his job back then didn’t require him to “knock-off” anyone. Ya kinda wonder if he woulda. You know, to protect his job… I mean, if he was able to get people to actually kill themSELVES over their own sexual orientation, then why not go all the way?? But thank gawd he’s “joined us”, he’s “saved” now, and heaven bound! (ugh).

  • I wonder how much of this was his hand being forced, that there was a very messy public outing of him on the way, that he just decided to do what was inevitable…..?

  • Rot in hell, Mehlman! You are a coward and a bastard!

  • As a “private citizen,” Mehlman was hired in 2008 as Managing Director and Head of Global Public Affairs at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. in Manhattan, (212) 750-8300. Undoubtedly, KKR hired Mehlman to provide access to his cronies at the GOP for KKR clients (of course, never assuming he was “gay”). Now that his same-sex attractions have been revealed, Kenny-boy will be a dwindling asset. Just how many of his homophobic cronies are going to pick up the phone when he calls or do favors for him when he needs them? Watch him loose his job at KKR in a few months (they’ll have an “air kisses” departure). Of course, he will have NOTHING to offer our community. Kenny-boy, turnaround is a bite.

  • It is one thing to be in the closet but it is another thing entirely to tear down the community you are a part of.

    The funny thing is most fools on Fox and other stations think he just figured this out…

    Well we all know differently. You have been Gay a long time Kenny.

    You have alot of bridges to rebuild before the Gay Guard will let you cross.

    Good Luck. Idiot.

  • He’s worse than a coward. He used his own self-loathing as an excuse to beat up on people he knew couldn’t fight back in an attempt to mobilize voters. Not only that, but there’s a difference between becoming comfortable enough with himself to come out – his words – and only realizing now that he’s gay. Figuring out your orientation isn’t difficult; figuring out when and how to come out can be. That difference is all the difference.

  • He should have come out when he was Chairman of the RNC when he had influence and power within the GOP and could make a greater impact! Instead like too many gay republicans he choose to support candidates and a party that make opposing gay rights their platform and do nothing more than provide lips service. He was a willing doormat for our enemies.

    I’m sick of gay Republicans saying the aren’t one-issue voters when in fact they are as they’ll put something like a tax cut above their own rights yet bask in the hard fought victories of gay activists who have won the few freedoms for them they do have. Groups like GayProud are a disgrace! Recently the PAID an Coulter to give a speech at their convention. Will this group whore itself out to anyone for attention!?

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