Friday, August 27, 2010

Ken Mehlman's Coming Out: Looking beyond the anger.

Now that we've had a couple of days to think about former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman's coming out, maybe we can take a moment to look beyond his past sins against our community -- and they are many -- and think about what this means to our ongoing struggle for full equality.

Ken Mehlman said in his interview in The Atlantic that he wants to work for marriage equality now and it appears he is serious about it. The Huffington Post reports, "The impetus for Mehlman's coming-out was a Sept. 22 fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is fighting for marriage equality in California. Mehlman will co-chair the event with Elmendorf and high-profile Republicans including Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, and Nicolle Wallace, who advised both McCain and President George W. Bush."

Andy Towle of reports, "Ken Mehlman is chairing a major fundraiser in late September that has already raised over $1 million for the organization battling Prop 8. The fundraiser is co-chaired by prominent Republican donors Paul Singer and Peter Thiel and will be held at Singer's home."

Oscar Award winning director Dustin Lance Black (Milk), board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights talked about that fundraiser, telling The Atlantic, "Ken represents an incredible coup for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We believe that our mission of equal rights under the law is one that should resonate with every American. As a victorious former presidential campaign manager and head of the Republican Party, Ken has the proven experience and expertise to help us communicate with people across each of the 50 states."

The fact is, Ken Mehlman is still a very powerful and influential politico with some very powerful and influential contacts. If we're going to win full equality, we're going to need more than 50% of the voting public on our side and we've got to work with people we may not like. There is an old saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Our enemy is homophobia and we've got to work with anyone who can help us win the fight, regardless of their party affiliation. Let's face it, the do-nothing Democrats haven't been there for us.

Personally, I believe in the power of redemption and in the forgiveness of past sins. But redemption takes time and a great deal of sincere effort. You can't just announce one day that you've changed your ways and expect everyone to embrace you. You have to prove yourself through your actions. Forgiveness has to be asked for and earned. Ken Mehlman is off to a good start, but he's got a lot of work to do to prove himself to the community he offered up as sacrifice to achieve the power and wealth that he now enjoys. It's way too soon to forgive and we should never forget.

Mehlman's coming out could signal a turning point in the way the GOP views the LGBT Community. The Meghan McCains out there have indicated that there is hope for the next generation of conservatives. Recent surveys show that young evangelicals are opting out of churches that are more focused on fighting gay rights and abortion rights than they are on spreading the message of loving thy neighbor and peaceful coexistence. Bill O'Rielly, Glenn Beck, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and even Ann Coulter have recently demonstrated a willingness to be, at the very least, less hostile toward LGBT Americans.

The world is changing because of the work we've done up to this point. Let's not be so focused on hating the haters that we fail to adapt to the very change we are seeking to create.

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