Ken Mehlman, former chair of the Republican National Committee and Bush re-election campaign chief, has told family members and associates that he is gay. Mehlman, who is Jewish, currently sits on the board of directors for the Republican Jewish Coalition, according to the organization’s website.
Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter’s questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. “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. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush “was no homophobe.” He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”
Ken Mehlman, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, is a Member of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, LLP. He oversees the firm’s global external affairs activities, including corporate marketing, regulatory affairs and public policy, communications, and engagement with the firm and portfolio companies’ key stakeholders. Before joining KKR, Ken Mehlman was a Partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, where he helped businesses and individuals manage risk and seize opportunities at the nexus of business and public policy.