mehlmanGay & Lesbian Victory Fund President and CEO Chuck Wolfe issued the following statement tonight regarding an announcement by the former chair of the Republican National Committee,  Ken Mehlman, that he is gay:

“Coming out is a personal decision, and it can have a profound impact on families, friends, colleagues and constituents.  We hope the fact that Ken Mehlman has reached this level of honesty will now encourage other political leaders to reject divisive anti-gay campaign tactics which, as Mr. Mehlman now admits, are purely cynical attempts to manipulate the American public,” Wolfe said.  ”We look forward to the day when all political leaders, regardless of party, are able to be honest about themselves and their families, and still rise to positions where they can lead by example.”

Mehlman led the GOP during administration of President George W. Bush when, in the 2004 and 2006 national elections, party officials deliberately used anti-gay political messaging to drive social conservatives to the polls, according to Marc Ambinder, who broke the news tonight:

Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.

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.