Ken Mehlman, Former RNC Chairman, On Supreme Court's DOMA, Prop 8 Hearings
Ken Mehlman, Former RNC Chairman, On Supreme Courts DOMA, Prop 8 HearingsKen Mehlman talks to the Huffington post about DOMA, Prop 8, and more.
“When you‟re in the closet, it‟s hard to think about things in the same kind of, Iwould say, holistic and honest way you think about things when you‟re honestwith yourself,” reflected former Republican National Committee Chairman KenMehlman, who came out as gay in 2010 but has given few interviews about thatpersonal process. A day before the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments onProposition 8 and gay marriage, an issue Mehlman has devoted his energytoward promoting, he discussed his coming out and working for the cause as asboard member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which took Prop 8to federal court. He also talked about the Republican Party‟s future on marriageequality, his support for a broad array of laws protecting LGBT people, howDick Cheney could have been our first pro-equality president and the possibilityof the evolution of even George W. Bush.“It wasn‟t an issue that was one that was motivating for my involvement inpolitics,” the former Bush 2004 campaign manager said in an interview on mySiriusXM OutQ radio program, reflecting on the election year that waspunctuated by anti-gay ballot measures banning marriage in stateconstitutions, which Bush supported in addition to a federal marriageamendment. Mehlman has discussed in the past how he had not come to termswith his sexual orientation at the time, and last year offered a public apology.
“When it came up, and I‟ve said this publicly, I didn‟t speak up and I wish I had,”he reiterated. “I do think though, everyone‟s thinking -- and you think of[President Obama] -- has evolved. We‟ve had a decade of experience. We‟vehad a decade of more and more people being comfortable with who they areand coming out. What this really comes down to is human decisions that peoplemake sometimes when they‟re younger, sometimes when they‟re older, to comeout. And when they do that, the impact that has on their lives -- it‟s just worthreflecting on that.”Mehlman has raised millions of dollars for the cause of marriage equality andused his considerable influence in several states to help sway Republicans tovote for gay marriage. He‟s also made the case for why marriage equality is aGOP issue, and gathered over 100 Republicans to sign a brief to the SupremeCourt. He said he supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and otherlaws that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation andgender identity and will do what he can to help get those laws passed as well.Asked how he responds to those LGBT people who still believe he‟s not doneenough in the aftermath of the ‟04 ballot measures, including those whosuffered under withering and often harsh campaigns in the states, Mehlmanlooks ahead and commits himself to more civil rights work.
“What I try to do, is, I think the key to this or any decision you make in life, inany area, is to focus on the future and how you can learn from things you‟vedone in the past and issues you‟ve been involved in in the past,” he said. “WhatI‟ve been trying to do over the last several years and what I will continue to tryto do is make the case, not just from a Republican point of view but broadly, touse the relationships I have, to use the knowledge I have, to try to helpadvance where I think I can be helpful to the effort and the cause on behalf ofthe fact that every American ought to be treated equally under our civil laws.”In the wake of Senator Rob Portman‟s reversal on marriage equality but withthe issue still causing much tension in the GOP, Mehlman is hopeful there willbe continued movement on the issue and even opines that we could have hada marriage equality supporter as president in 2008 -- though one that woulddecidedly not have embraced by many progressives.“I think lot of it comes down to first of all individuals and candidates havingdifferent positions,” he said. “There was some discussion, Could a Republicanpresidential nominee in 2016, for example, be in favor of same-sex marriage?My reaction was: Had he been 10 years younger and not had health problemswe might have had a Republican nominee for president in 2008, and that wasDick Cheney.”
With so much evolution on marriage equality happening even amongRepublicans, is it a possibility for his former boss? Bush is, of course, anevangelical Christian who supported a federal marriage amendment, but hiswife Laura and daughter Barbara have both now come out for marriageequality. Mehlman doesn‟t rule it out for the former president either.“He‟s happy to be out of the public policy game,” he said of Bush. “So I‟m notsure that he‟ll be commenting on much public policy. But at the same time I‟lltell you this: one of the things I‟ve been gratified about since I‟ve gotteninvolved in this is that as folks think more about it, sometimes you have goodconversations with them, sometimes you have tough conversations with them.A lot of people have come to recognize that this is consistent with their values.So my hope is that, as we go forward, lots of people will look at this and say,„You know what? As I think about this more, maybe it does make sense to sayeveryone in America should have access to civil marriage.‟”Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated that Mehlman was not awareof his sexual orientation when he was working as a Bush campaign manager in2004. Mehlman tells The Huffington Post he had simply not come to terms withhis sexual orientation.