POLITICS

Ken Mehlman: GOP Evolution On Gay Marriage Is Personal

04/23/2013 12:40 pm ET
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Former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who came out as gay in 2010, believes GOP politicians' views on same-sex marriage are affected by their personal lives rather than the views of their colleagues.

Mehlman, who served as George W. Bush's 2004 campaign manager, told The Advocate that he believes President Barack Obama -- who came out with a pro-marriage equality stance in May 2012 -- can't take full credit for the evolving views of Republican Party members.

“I think that most of the signers of the [amicus curiae] brief, like other Americans who have increasingly embraced the freedom to marry, are most impacted by what they see in their own lives,” Mehlman said. “That’s how change so often occurs -- people reflecting on their core values and also their experiences. And as people consider the importance of marriage to their own lives, they recognize how fundamental this right is. As they come to fully know their gay friends and relatives and neighbors and teammates, they don’t think it’s fair or consistent with conservative values to deny them this basic right.”

Mehlman's comments come weeks after a number of senators changed their stance on same-sex marriage, starting with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who flipped his views on the issue in March, citing his gay son as a the reason for changing his mind.

As the former RNC Chairman, Mehlman has been a visible and vocal Republican advocate for same-sex marriage. In 2010, three years after leaving his post as chairman, Mehlman announced he is gay in an interview with The Atlantic. Mehlman said he regretted not coming out earlier, despite the Republican Party's anti-gay rights platform, but that he believes the party has the potential to change.

"I think the Republican Party is a diverse party with lots of different views, and I think it's a mistake to presume that people who disagree with what I think is the right answer -- which is freedom to marry -- are inherently motivated by divisive instincts," Mehlman told The Huffington Post in 2010.

Following the 2012 presidential election, Mehlman launched Project Right Side, a nonprofit group aimed at gaining right-wing support for marriage equality and gay rights and attracting new voters to the GOP.

"Conservatives don't need to change core convictions to embrace the growing support for equal rights for gay Americans," Mehlman wrote in a 2012 Wall Street Journal op-ed. "It is sufficient to recognize the inherent conservatism in citizens' desire to marry, to be judged on their work, and not to be singled out for higher taxes or bullying at school. These objectives can be achieved while also protecting religious liberty, as demonstrated by states enacting civil marriage with exemptions for religious institutions."

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