Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman and President George W. Bush re-election campaign manager who came out as gay in August 2010, said that he regrets his role in the campaign's anti-gay marriage push 2004.
"At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the effort," he told Salon in an interview published Friday, referring to the campaign's attempt to draw out the conservative base by attacking same-sex marriage.
"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," he continued. "I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry. While there have been recent victories, this could still be a long struggle in which there will be setbacks, and I’ll do my part to be helpful."
In 2004, 11 states resoundingly passed gay marriage bans, and Bush publicly supported a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. However, some political scientists have doubted that the gay marriage referenda had much effect on re-electing Bush -- a view that Mehlman shares.
Since coming out, Mehlman pushed for gay marriage in New York, Maryland and New Hampshire. He has also raised money for the effort to support a legal challenge against California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8. He serves on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is the sole sponsor to the Prop. 8 federal court challenge.
In the Atlantic interview where he acknowledged his sexuality, Mehlman said that if he had come out sooner, he might have been able to play a role in opposing the gay marriage bans.
"I can't change the fact that I wasn't in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally," he said.