Ken Mehlman: Republicans May Benefit from Supporting Gay Marriage

3.2.2012

By Evan Lambert

Former Bush, Jr. strategist Ken Mehlman encourages Republicans to start listening to American voters and come out in support of equal rights for gays.

Ken Mehlman is ready for a change.

The former Republican strategist, who managed George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, recently discussed America's shifting attitudes towards gay marriage in an interview with Salon.

"If you look at attitudes today and where they are headed, it’s clear to me that supporting equal rights, including the rights to civil marriage, is a net positive for winning elections, as well as the right thing to do,” Mehlman, who was honored in 2011's OUT100, told Salon. “By contrast, opposing equal rights is a net negative that gets problematic to more voters each year.”

Mehlman, who came out in 2010 after years of speculation about his sexual orientation, is aware of the discrepancies between his stance now and his stance during Bush's campaign. (One of the hallmarks of Bush's reelection campaign was an aggressive anti-gay marriage attitude.)

“At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the effort,” he said. “As I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I’ve learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved. I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry."

Mehlman truly has made a turnaround, though. In 2011, he played a major role in bringing about both marriage equality in New York and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." Coincidentally, his change in attitude lines up with a national change in attitude as well: Recently, Washington and Maryland became the seventh and eighth states, respectively, to legalize gay marriage.

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