Former Republican National Committee
Chairman Ken Mehlman is taking up the cause of gay marriage.
Mehlman, who managed President George
W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, told
gay glossy The Advocate that he's organizing a fundraiser
for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER).
Mehlman said the fundraiser, which has
already attracted $750,000 in its pre-selling phase, will be hosted
by Elliott Management Corp. CEO Paul Singer.
AFER was created specifically to
support a challenge to California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8,
and is funded by deep-pocketed Hollywood.
The group's decision to hire former
Bush administration solicitor general Ted Olson raised eyebrows among
gay activists who questioned the Republican's motivations.
In the interview, Mehlman, who
came out gay on Wednesday after denying rumors for years, sounded
a lot like Olson in making his case for gay marriage.
“I would argue … that in fact if
you are a believer in individual freedom and leaving people alone and
you're a believer in strengthening families that, in fact, supporting
issues like the right to marry would be consistent with that. I
think those are conservative positions,” he said.
Critics point out that Mehlman's
silence on the issue in 2004, the year that eleven states approved
gay marriage bans with the backing of the GOP, is at odds with his
new-found support for the issue.
“I understand that folks are angry, I
don't know that you can change the past,” he said. “As I've
said, one thing I regret a lot is the fact that I wasn't in the
position I am today where I was comfortable with this part of my
life, where I was able to be an advocate against that [strategy] and
able to be someone who argued against it.”
AFER President Chad Griffin urged
people to look beyond the past.
“I have spent no time thinking about
where Ken was four to five to six years ago. I'm just thankful that
he's with us today.”
“He is one of the most brilliant
political strategists from the Republican side of the aisle,” he
told The Advocate. “And he is also a master fundraiser and
brings contacts and relationships to bear that comparable to almost
Mehlman left politics to work at New
York City-based private equity firm KKR.