Family Equality’s Nix in Newsweek: Mehlman’s Coming Out Roils Gay Community


George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign chief and former RNC chair Ken
Mehlman, long a thorn in the side of the LGBT movement, dropped a
bomb yesterday, telling The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder that he’s
gay. There has been shock and disgust, as Steven Petrow, former
president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists
Association, details in the Huffington Post: “What disturbs me
most…is the rage being unleashed by some members of the LGBT
community against him. One blogger called him ‘a piece of human
garbage.’ Another says he is ‘so digging [the] rage over this vile
POS. Keep it up!'”

But Petrow is coming to terms with the news, and doing his best to
be gracious. “I’m no apologist for Ken Mehlman, who headed the
Republic National Committee during George W. Bush’s presidency and
was the architect of much of the anti-gay rhetoric and policies
during that time.” But he concludes that, “For a community that
well knows the power and danger of hate and it’s connection to
violence, how can we condone this kind of ‘discourse’? We can’t. We
don’t need to support him. We don’t need to forgive him. But we do
need to have some empathy and understanding of the closet he has
just left. It’s a closet every LGBT person knows all too

Part of any new dialogue with the LGBT community may have started
with Mehlman’s interview with Kerry Eleveld in The Advocate that
came on the heels of the Atlantic piece. Mehlman told Eleveld that
he had been fundraising to help the legal case against
California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, but added
that “in terms of particular causes, I think it would be
premature because I have a lot to learn. I want to talk to folks
that are involved in the effort and figure out where I can be

Mehlman can only hope that the gay community will be forgiving of
him. They just might be. Human Rights Campaign spokesman Fred Sainz
tells NEWSWEEK that when it comes to the movement for marriage
equality, “we need every ally” and that, “While the past
cannot be overlooked, with more and more people like Ken joining
our movement, our future is far more important and holds great

Kevin Nix, a spokesman for the Family Equality Council, a
Boston-based advocacy group for LGBT families, says, “The community
has a right to be angry with Mehlman–really angry. But being angry
now is not going to get us policy reform we are seeking. Mehlman
should put the same amount of time, energy, and money he spent
working against LGBT equality into working for it. And then

Karen Ocamb, news editor for the LGBT publication Frontiers In LA,
tells NEWSWEEK, “While I understand the reaction, given Mehlman’s
hypocritical antigay history, it’s also important to note that his
coming out is part of a larger and deeper sea-change happening
within the Republican Party, with one of the heros of the straight
conservative movement, former Solicitor General Ted Olson serving
as the best example of this quieter revolution.”