Former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman’s coming out provided the media with an opportunity to review the GOP’s record on gay rights and explore the Mehlman’s role in crafting President Bush’s 2004 re-election strategy. On MSNBC, Mehlman’s revelation engendered an even more honest discussion when, during a segment with GOProud chairman Christopher Barron, daytime anchor Thomas Roberts — who is an openly gay anchor — discussed his orientation on air:
BARRON: We know that opinion poll after opinion poll shows that the single most important factor in determining how someone feels about gay rights or about gay issues is whether or not they know someone who is gay or lesbian….
ROBERTS: I think for probably most heterosexual Americans this isn’t going to come as a big deal, but I think for millions of gay and lesbian Americans — me included — find this to be kind of a shocking admission, especially when Mehlman’s leadership, in the positions that he held, came at a time when he was part of talks that would have put discrimination into the Constitution. When they were ramping up anti gay rhetoric and now he wants to come out say, ‘hey I’m one of you.’ So how does he go about trying to get millions of gay and lesbian Americans to believe that he is not just a big hypocrite.
Indeed, despite Bush and Mehlman’s effort to “put discrimination into the Constitution,” support for gay rights is increasing across the country. As recently as 2004, “same-sex marriage did not have majority support in any state.” Today, according to researchers at Columbia University, “17 states are over that line.” Similarly, CBS News poll found that 77% of Americans now say they know someone who is gay or lesbian,” an increase of 35 percentage points since 1992.