Ken Mehlman Gay Revelation Mark a Shift in GOP?

Ken Mehlman latest former Bush administration official supporting gay marriage.

ByABC News
August 26, 2010, 9:42 AM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2010— -- Six years ago Ken Mehlman was running the re-election campaign of a president who sought a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Now he's the nation's most prominent openly gay Republican and the latest member of the George W. Bush administration to support extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

Mehlman has been working as a fundraiser and strategist for the American Foundation for Equal Rights -- a group that supports same-sex marriage and is suing to overturn California's Proposition 8.

"In the context of doing that, some questions had come up and I wanted to answer the questions honestly," Mehlman told ABC News following his decision to reveal his sexual orientation in an interview with The Atlantic.

"When I was at the RNC I hadn't come to terms with it, I hadn't accepted it," he said. "My family and my friends found out about this in the last several months."

Mehlman joins former Vice President Dick Cheney, First Lady Laura Bush, and Bush administration Solicitor General Ted Olson in supporting same-sex marriage.

But whether Mehlman's high-profile outing and support for gay marriage will trigger a broader shift within the GOP is far from certain. The party's official 2008 platform still calls for a constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman.

And some of the early possible contenders for the Republican nomination in 2012 – including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee – all oppose gay marriage.

"I accepted his decision," former RNC chair Ed Gillespie said on "Good Morning America." "We agreed to disagree on the issue of same-sex marriage. But proponents of same-sex marriage within the Republican Party have gained an effective advocate."

Still, Mehlman's outing and newfound support for gay marriage rights is drawing criticism from some corners because of his history of opposing gay rights while simultaneously leading a double life.

"Ken Mehlman was going to low-profile gay parties. Ken Mehlman was dating men. Ken Mehlman was going to a predominantly gay gym. Ken Mehlman was living the life of a gay man, albeit deeply in the closet. He knew who he was," said liberal gay blogger Mike Rogers, who outed Mehlman years ago online.

"It was on the backs of the very people who Ken Mehlman now wants to be welcomed into as a community that he built his political career," he said.