On April 22, 2013 Ken Mehlman published an op-ed on USA Today about the future of the Republican Party. With the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center this week, he states an important reminder, “We can win the votes of non-whites, but only if we try. President George W. Bush won an historic share of Hispanic voters and grew African- and Asian-American support by acknowledging the different and often difficult experiences of many minorities, while pursuing policies that recognized the universal appeal of freedom and opportunity. “ He believes that Republicans need to take this approach again.


Ken Mehlman explains that President Bush’s growth in non-white support was good for public policy and he understood that “family values doesn’t stop at the Rio Grande,” while promoting a new immigration policy. While President Bush was in office, the nation helped the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which again shows the compassion he had for non-white communities who are in suffering. President Bush also increased funding for programs that supported the recovery of more than 200,000 substance abuse addicts, helped transition 50,000 homeless people into a place to live, and provided over 100,000 children with parents in jail with supportive mentors. This is another example of how he worked to strengthen civil society.


Ken Mehlman ended his piece explain that, “While there are many strategies our party must deploy as we work to appeal to a changing American electorate, it all comes down to the advice of the late Jack Kemp, the modern father of ‘compassionate conservatism’: people don’t care that you know unless they know that you care. As Republicans look towards the future, policies that speak to the common dreams that unite Americans from all background are worth remembers and in many cases emulating.”

Ken Mehlman recently talked to the Huffington Post about the GOP evolution on gay marriage acceptance. “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,” Ken Mehlman stated. “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.”


The former RNC Chairman has been very outspoken about his views on same-sex marriage and continues to work with his organization, Project Right Side, to get more conservative support for gay marriage. “Conservatives don’t need to change core convictions to embrace the growing support for equal rights for gay Americans,” Ken 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.”

Kenneth Mehlman was interviewed last week by Thomas Roberts on MSNBC and discussed the marriage equality cases pending at the Supreme Court.  He discussed his own experience at the hearings, his experience on the board of AFER, and the cautiousness of the justices on the Supreme Court.  Ken Mehlman pulled on his own experience as a lawyer to answer questions about how the legal case is being presented and what might happen in the next couple weeks.

Watch the entire piece, and read the first part of the interview below.

Video transcript:

Thomas Roberts: And our special guest at the top of the hour, former RNC Chairman Ken, Mehlman, Richard Socarides former president of Equality Matters, and openly gay Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline. Gentlemen, great to have you hear, but I want to start with our exclusive interview with Ken Mehlman, former RNC Chair, former campaign manager for George W. Bush’s ’04 campaign. And Ken you publically came out in 2010.

Ken Mehlman: I did.

Thomas Roberts: It’s been written about you, that you are the highest profile gay republican in American history. It just crossed the wires from Reuters saying that, the US Supreme court, who is hearing the oral arguments right now, it’s saying that conservatives justices are troubled by the Obama Administration’s refusal to defend the marriage law. As a lawyer, how do you interpret whats coming out of the court right now?

Ken Mehlman: Well I was actually in the hearings yesterday, in the oral arguments, I’m on the board of AFER. Which is the organization that brought the proposition law suit with Ted Olsen and David Boies. What I saw yesterday were justices that were taking a very serious issue very seriously. They were asking a lot of very touch questions to all three of the council that were appearing before them. They recognized the enormity of what they were dealing with. What was interesting to me though, was that you heard from all sides two things that I think are really important. One was how important the issue of marriage is, how central it is to an individual, as a person to their freedom, to their essence. As Ted Olsen said it is the single most important relationship you have. And the second thing was the fundamental nature of that right, which in my judgment and in our judgment, the constitution ought to protect.

Kenneth Mehlman was interviewed by Michelangelo Signorile at the Huffington Post.  Signorile discussed this interview, and an interview that Mehlman participated with a year ago, in a piece that posted today.  In it, Kenneth Mehlman discussed the process of coming out, as well as Mehlman’s actions towards equality as part of the board for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) is the organization that took Prop. 8 to the Federal Court and, both as a board member for AFER and as a private citizen, Mehlman has been active in the cause of equality.  As Signorile puts it, “Mehlman has raised millions of dollars for the cause of marriage equality and used his considerable influence in several states to help sway Republicans to vote for gay marriage.”

Of course, one of the most recent things that Kenneth Melhman has done for the cause of marriage equality is his recent discussion surrounding marriage equality in the GOP.  Mehlman has been active in making the case for why marriage equality is a GOP issue, and even wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal explaining his argument. 

And, as Signorile brings up in his piece, Mehlman recently gathered over 100 Republicans to sign an Amicus Curie brief to the Supreme Court.  He also supports the Employment Non-Discrimination act as well, and is committed to doing more civil rights work in the future.  He hopes that there will be more movement on this issue.

“So my hope is that, as we go forward,” explained Kenneth Mehlman, “lots of people will look at this and say, ‘You know what? As I think about this more, maybe it does make sense to say everyone in America should have access to civil marriage.’”


Ken Mehlman was featured today in the New Yorker, as the organizer of a recent amicus brief to the Supreme Court regarding the Proposition 8 case.  This brief featured dozens of leading Republicans including Jon Huntsman, Meg Whitman, Ken Duberstein, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and others, all stating that they supported a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

This landmark brief comes two days before the Obama Administration must decide if it is going to file a similar brief, and in one of the most high-profile Supreme Court cases of the year has drawn quite a bit of attention.  The New Yorker went on to explain just how important it was that Ken Mehlman was the one who helped to organize it.

“It’s not just that Ken Mehlman is a prominent Republican, which makes him an important asset to—and, now, organizer in—the gay-rights movement; it’s that he is one of the smartest political operatives anywhere in the country right now, and that he understands better than perhaps anyone how moderate and persuadable Republicans think. These are the very people the gay-rights movement is now trying to speak to. As Mehlman told the Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “We are trying to say to the Court that we are judicial and political conservatives, and it is consistent with our values and philosophy for you to overturn Proposition 8.”

Richard Socarides, author of the New Yorker piece, also discussed his personal experiences with Kenneth Mehlman.  The summer that he came out, he met with Mehlman and discussed what steps he would be taking.  Socarides remembers that “he told me that while he wanted to be an advocate and work for change and greater acceptance, he thought that he should first spend some time listening and learning.”

Socarides also detailed some of the work that Mehlman has done since that period of listening and learning, including being on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, working with the New York based Freedom to Marry, and his advocacy in working for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State.

Read the full piece, Ken Mehlman’s Gay Marriage Mission, at the New Yorker. 


Robert Draper published a piece on Thursday that is a hard-hitting look at the Republican Party and the efforts that they are taking to try to become more relevant to the voters, especially younger voters.  He spent time interviewing several young Republicans including Bret Jacobson and Ian Spencer, part of the five-man company Red Edge that is a digital advocacy group for conservative causes, Kristin Soltis Anderson, a 28-year-old G.O.P. pollster, S.E. Cupp, a New York Daily News columnist and co-host of “The Cycle” on MSNBC, and Patrick Ruffini, a 34-year-old leader of the young Republican digitial movement.

Draper also interviewed Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager and current Global Head of Public Affairs for private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR)- mentioning how Mehlman has become a vigorous supporter of the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York and beyond.  Ken Mehlman explained to Draper how the demographics of the nation have changed, and how a typical voting couple would be different from what it was in 1970.

“There’s an important book by Ben Wattenberg and Richard Scammon called ‘The Real Majority,’ published in 1970,” Mehlman explained to Draper. “The book explains in part how the Republican Party would go on to win five out of six presidential elections through the eyes of the ‘typical’ voter — a working-class couple in Dayton, Ohio. They’re white, worried about crime, feel burdened by taxes and feel like too many Democrats don’t understand these concerns.”

However, today’s voter is a little different. “Here’s the difference,” Mehlman went on to explain. “They worry about economic mobility — can their kids get ahead or even keep up. Their next-door neighbors are Latino whose mom gets concerned when she hears talk about self-deportation or no driver’s licenses. And that couple has a gay niece and an African-American brother-in-law. And too many folks like the couple in Dayton today wonder if some of the G.O.P. understands their lives anymore.”

Ken Mehlman, according to Draper, feels that the biggest issue for modern Republican candidates is not finding a new Reagan, but finding someone who understands that modern voter.  Someone who knows the demography and how the new voters react and change, and who can adapt to their concerns.

Others he interviewed think that the solution might be even simpler.  As Jacobson explained, “I think the answer for a vibrant Republican Party is to make our North Star empowering every individual in this country to follow their own dream, free of legislative excesses.”


Ken Mehlman was recently in Des Moines, Iowa speaking at a public event hosted by Iowa Republicans for Freedom. According to the Iowa Republican, Mehlman spoke on the fact that he “believes that not only is it in the best interest of the Republican Party to end its opposition to same-sex marriage, but it also fits with the conservative principles of small government the party holds dear.”

In the ten minute speech Kenneth Mehlman touched on several different issues, including the benefits that civil marriage can bring to society as well as individuals.  Watch the video, or read the full transcript of his video tomorrow



Ken Mehlman: “So the men and women who were here today and the reason that I am here in Iowa is to stand with and salute the excellent work of men and women who stand in favor of civil marriage because they are conservative, not in spite of being conservative.  If you think about what permitting civil marriage is about it is actually consistent with conservative principles.


I’m a conservative because I believe in more freedom and I believe in less government.  I think that we are endowed by our creator- not by politicians, not by the government, not by a bureaucrat- with inalienable rights including the pursuit of happiness.  If you believe that, what could be more central to the pursuit of happiness than choosing the person that you love that you have the right to marry.


What could be a more basic and a more fundamental and a more core right? A right in which the individual has and frankly the government shouldn’t be involved.  How could smaller and less intrusive government not include the right to choose the person that you would like to marry?


The second reason that a lot of us are conservatives is that we believe in family values.  We think that it is good for society when families are promoted- when stability is promoted.  It is one reason that I for one was proud when I was working in Congress to have helped out members of Congress that were working on behalf of welfare reform.   It is a reason you hear a lot of people talk, and I think rightly so, about the dangers of family disintegration. These are important things.


So if you believe that, isn’t a good way to promote family values and discourage family disintegration to allow families to form in the first place?  Isn’t that important, doesn’t that make sense? How does standing in the way of two adults who love each other discourage rather than promote family values?


If you think about it what- in fact- it does (and you’re seeing it across Iowa) is it makes our society stronger.  It makes it more caring.   It makes it more focused on the long term.  It creates stability in the lives of children across the country who are raised by two members of the same gender who are loving moms or loving dads and- because of what happened in Iowa- now have the stability and security in the knowledge that their home is now more secure.


We are also conservatives because we believe in protecting religious liberty and because we believe in the golden rule.  Protecting religious liberty.  We know that here in Iowa, that in New York, we know that in New Hampshire, all around the country there are civil marriage laws.  And what those laws do- in addition to promoting freedom and in addition to encouraging family values- is that they protect religious liberties.


How? They say that if it’s a church, or a synagogue, or a knights of Columbus, and their doctrine says that they don’t perform the ceremony, then the ceremony doesn’t happen there.  And that’s as it should be.


But there’s something else.  Even though many of us come from different religious traditions, so many of those traditions are rooted in the golden rule.  Do unto others- put yourself in the other person’s shoes.


So how does that apply here?  Well think about it.  Put yourself in the shoes of your neighbor. Your neighbor works hard like you do.  He or she pays the same taxes that you do.   He or she may serve in the same military that you do.   Shouldn’t they be subjected to the same laws?  How would you feel if you were in their shoes and you had special laws that applied to you that precluded you from marrying the person you loved?


Or put yourself in the shoes of the 14 year-old, or the 12 year-old, or the kid that is growing up.  Sitting on your mom or dad’s counter is a wedding album. And it celebrates one of the greatest things that happened in their life- when they chose to get married.  As you thought about your own future wouldn’t you hope that you had that same opportunity?


So when you do unto others- when you think about the golden rule- it seems to me that allowing civil marriage is also consistent with permitting that to occur. And that’s another reason that we as conservatives stand on behalf of civil marriage because we are conservatives, not in spite of being conservatives.


There are also real world practical implications. I’m talking about conservatism and philosophy and all that, but there are real world implications that affect people’s lives.  One of them is before the United States Supreme Court.  There is a woman in New York by the name of Evie Winsor.  She’s an older woman.  She is someone who had a partner for her whole life and when her partner died she ended up with a more than $700,000 estate tax simply because they were a couple who were of the same gender.  As conservatives who don’t like taxes and who feel that a fundamentally unfair rule like that ought to be overturned shouldn’t we stand with Evie against such an onerous tax?  That’s a real world implication.


I have a good friend of mine who lives in New York.  A couple.  They have been together for about 15 years.  Because they live in New York and if they came to Iowa, when they travel with their children they’re in a good place.  But if they go to a number of other states in their country they have to carry papers proving that they have custody of the children in case, heaven forbid, that something happened to one of the children and a medical decision had to be made.


The way they got those papers was by a judge sitting in their house for a week and ascertaining whether they are fit parents.  That happens all across America today.  Not in Cuba, in America. That is unjust, and it’s unfair, and it’s a very practical- not philosophical- but practical fact that can be changed when other states follow what Iowa has done and civil marriage is available.

I have another friend who is in a wonderful relationship with someone who lives overseas.  And every five years this couple has to go through a harrowing experience about worrying about whether they are going to have to deal with a situation where the couple can stay together.  How are they going to do it?


So these are real world, actual implications. Not philosophical.  Not about matters about what you call it or not call it.  The fact is that all across our country are couples that lose their homes, who pay unfair taxes, who worry about making medical decisions for their children who they care about and love, and who worry about whether a loved one overseas can be with their mate for life in this country.  And that’s all because other states do not have what we have in Iowa, what we have in New York, and that is the right to civil marriage.


Finally, it always interests me when I talk to people about this, what does it mean to have marriage? Think about this state. There are probably four or five thousand couples who are together today as married couples that weren’t together before there was marriage in this state. And what does it mean?


It means a whole lot to that couple.  It means their lives are better.  It means that if they have kids their kids live in a more secure home.  It means that if they live in your neighborhood they are two people, not one, who if you are sick or old that they can look after your house, who can mow the lawn if you need the help. That can make sure that if your child is wandering the streets that your child is taken care of.


It means that when these folks get older that they will, in fact, be able to care for each other and the public taxpayer is protected. It means that their families feel better knowing that there is someone out there to look after their son or their daughter.


The fact is that for those 5,000 people and for all the people in their lives, their families, their neighbors, their friends, their work colleagues, it’s a better place to live. And who’s at worst for it? Can you find anyone?


I was in a discussion with a state legislator in another state and I explained to him why I felt that civil marriage made sense.  And he said, “I’m against it.” And I said, “Well, you’ve had it in your state for a few years.  Can you find me one person, one example where it’s worse?  One example where the parade of horrible happened?”  The fact is, he couldn’t.


So if you think about it, Iowa is a better place today because of the fact that loving couples can be married. It’s a freer place, it’s a juster place, it’s a place with stronger families, it’s a place with stronger neighborhoods, it’s a place with stronger communities.


The conservatives who stand here today are not alone.  All across our country from Dick Cheney who more than eight years ago to John Bolton to Clint Eastwood to Ted Olsen, people who are extremely conservative, who are proud of their support of freedom, who are proud of their support of family values who are proud of their support of the golden rule, believe that civil marriage ought to be available.


And obviously conservatives are not alone.  We saw what happened in the last election- more Americans support the right to civil marriage than oppose it and that number continues to grow every day.


So I am proud to stand here today with men and women who have taken the term “Iowa first” and have proven it to once again be true.  Proven it by standing up first for justice, standing up first for freedom, and standing up for conservative and frankly American values that we look forward to seeing expand across the country.


I salute the head of One Iowa that we have with us today and I want to salute and thank you for your wonderful leadership and there are a number of One Iowa staff, raise your hands and stand so that we can give you a round of applause.


Thank you for being here.  Thank you for your leadership.  It is an honor for me to stand with you all today and it’s an honor to be back here in the wonderful city of Des Moines. And I appreciate the members of the press taking the time to be with us today.”

Ken Mehlman was recently featured in the Advocate for his work on Project Right Side, a new non-profit that, through research and analysis, ” identifies the intersections between conservative beliefs and the growing public support for gay and lesbian civil rights measures, including marriage equality, employment nondiscrimination protections, and antibullying laws.”

Project Right Side is unique in the fact that it is focused on research and analysis, and how it has provided important data about how supportive Republicans in general are of legal protection for gay Americans.

“Of the 7,000 Republicans we surveyed, 73% support employment nondiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians,” Ken Mehlman explained. “61% support safe-schools protections (such as those signed into law by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) and 46% support allowing same-sex couples to jointly file tax returns.”


Ken Mehlman recently launched Project Right Side which, according to Amanda Terkel’s piece in the Huffington Post, “is aimed at convincing more conservatives to support marriage equality.”

According to Terkel, in his discussion about the issue, Mehlman explains how marriage equality really is as much an issue of individual freedom as it is one of civil rights.

As part of a study that Project Right Side commissioned of voters in the election in the last year, there is growing GOP support for marriage equality.

Terkel also brings up the fact that Mehlman has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights ever since he announced that he was gay in August of 2010.

“He has fundraised for marriage equality initiatives and has publicly spoken out in favor of such measures,” she wrote.

Ken Mehlman has a featured piece in the Wall Street Journal about demography, American politics, and marriage equality.

Ken Mehlman brings up the interesting idea that marriage equality is not solely a progressive issue.  Indeed, it is one that is closely tied in with conservative values.

“Some misperceive the issue of marriage equality as exclusively progressive. Yet what could be more conservative than support for more freedom and less government?” Mehlman wrote. “And what freedom is more basic than the right to marry the person you love?”

He also explains Project Right Side, which commissioned leading GOP polling firm Target Point to survey voters and help Republicans appreciate this changing environment.

To read more about this data, and Ken Mehlman’s entire piece, click here.