That Mehlman was gay, though he says he "arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently," was long an open secret, as he served as a high-ranking official for the institutionally anti-gay Republican Party, during the years when the party and its executive in the White House supported and pursued a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Mehlman says he regrets not coming out sooner.
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.I don't feel angry as much as I feel pity. I can't imagine the self-loathing, the discomfort in one's own skin, the profound disassociation of self that happens with the subjugation of authenticity behind thin façade, that exists within someone who had the professional life he did. I wish him contentment of the sort that means he will never betray himself, or any other members of his LGBTQI family, again.
"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."
...Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
"It's a legitimate question and one I understand," Mehlman said. "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 asks of those who doubt his sincerity: "If they can't offer support, at least offer understanding."
"What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn't always heard. I didn't do this in the gay community at all."
[H/T to Shaker Glauke and Richard.]