Ken Mehlman is an attorney who has been active in both the public and private sectors. Mehlman served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005-2007, during which he reached out to constituents not traditionally part of the Republican base. Mehlman also served in high-level positions in Congress and the White House, including as White House political director during President George W. Bush's first term and as the the campaign manager for Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.
Mehlman currently oversees global external affairs for the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, LLP. Before joining KKR, Ken Mehlman was a Partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, where he helped businesses and individuals manage risk and seize opportunities at the nexus of business and public policy.
In 2010 Mehlman made headlines by coming out as gay, making him one of the highest-ranking openly gay figures in the Republican Party.
Question: How can the Republican Party reach out to the gay community when its policies actively seek to restrict gay rights?
Ken Mehlman: Well, as I’ve said and made some news about it earlier this year, I think that, I hope that people like myself and others can try to persuade people in the Republican Party that if you think about some pretty important issues that we all believe in, whether it’s freedom, whether it’s, frankly, the value of community, that on issues like, for example, the freedom to marry, the right to marry, it’s consistent with the Republican philosophy to be supportive of two adults who love each other—whether they be gay or straight—having the right to get married.
I do hope the Republican Party in the future, will look in the mirror and leaders in the party will think about where we stand and say, “You know what? The party of Lincoln ought to be about letting adults who love each other to be married.” And the party of Lincoln ought to be about giving people more personal freedom. And the party of Lincoln, frankly, ought to be about encouraging the community that is built when two people who love each other decide they’re going to spend their whole lives together. And that requires people to look in the mirror and it requires people in the past who haven’t been on that side, to think about where they want to be on this issue.
Recorded November 22, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller