Ken Mehlman, a private equity executive in Manhattan is working to convince Republicans that gay marriage is consistent with conservative values.

Coming out “has been a little bit like the Tom Sawyer funeral, where you show up at your own funeral and you hear what people really think,” Mehlman stated in a recent interview at his KKR office. “A big part of one’s brain that used to worry about this issue has now been freed to worry about things that are much more productive.” With all this free time, Ken has worked all over to help legalize marriage equality.

“I have a happy life today, and I had a happy life before,” Ken Mehlman said.

John Aravosis, a gay blogger talked about how coming out is difficult, and “If you’re going to have an epiphany, do it like Mehlman.”

He has worked with the White House and President Obama, who was a classmate at Harvard Law School to help repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He has worked with Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman and recruited Republican donors, helping to raise $4.5 million for gay causes and anti-bullying.

In Maine in 2009, voters were against same-sex marriage. Last year, Ken Mehlman helped to change up their advertising. They ended up winning. “He brought a totally fresh perspective that nobody else had, and because he was so prominent, people had to take note,” said Matt McTighe, who managed the Maine effort.

“This is not just any Republican — this is one of the single greatest successful strategists for Republicans,” Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said of Ken Mehlman. “And now he’s on our side.”



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.”


Project Right Side is Ken Mehlman’s newest endeavor to achieve LGBT equality. Launched in November, the project is a research and analysis nonprofit that hopes to further all aspects of the LGBT agenda politically in the coming years.


Ken Mehlman, who helped raise millions for the marriage equality efforts in this year’s election, wants to keep the fight going. This year saw huge successes in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, where marriage equality was approved for the first time by popular vote. We also saw an anti-gay Constitutional amendment in Minnesota shot down. But there’s still a long way to go before LGBT equality is achieved.


Current research and polls from Ken Mehlman’s Project Right Side have concluded the following:


  • A majority of Americans favor civil marriage for same sex couples, a ratio of 49% to 46%
  • These trends are growing quickly and across all demographics
  • The marriage-equality issue is more important to supporters than to opponents
  • A majority of independents (58%) favor marriage equality
  • Republicans are increasingly supportive of legal protections for gay Americans. 73% support employment nondiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians, 61% agree that there should be safe-school protections, and 46% support joint tax returns by same-sex couples
  • Voters under 45 strongly favor marriage equality (60%)


Keeping his focus on his fellow Republicans and Conservatives, Ken Mehlman appeals to the principals that drive them. “Conservatives don’t need to change core convictions to embrace the growing support for equal rights for gay Americans,” he writes. “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.”


This isn’t the first time Ken Mehlman has stressed that Republicans’ dearest principles fall in line with the lives that same-sex couples seek to create. He is influential in the Republican sphere and has worked tirelessly to find allies there.


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, who oversees global external affairs for the New York-based private equity firm KKR & Co., was the keynote speaker at an event for institutional investors hosted by Crain’s Detroit Business and Pensions & Investments.

During the event, Mehlman talked about the changing nature of the private equity business, especially in light of the recent election and how Romney explained, or failed to explain, his association with the private equity business.

According to Mehlman, this caused the general American public to generate quite a few negative opinions about private equity.

To read the full piece in MiBiz, and find out more about the nature of private equity click here.