Kenneth Brian Mehlman is an American businessman, attorney, and political figure who served as the campaign manager for the 2004 re-election bid of George W. Bush and Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007. On August 26, 2010, Mehlman came out as gay, making him one of the most prominent openly gay figures in the Republican Party.
Prior to coming out, rumors about Mehlman's orientation had circulated since at least 2004. In May 2006, Mehlman denied that he was gay, saying, “I’m not gay, but those stories did a number on my dating life for six months.” On November 8, 2006, comedian Bill Maher made an appearance on Larry King Live, during which he referred to Mehlman as a closeted gay man. The incident became controversial because CNN edited out Maher’s comments in later taped editions and removed the reference to Mehlman's sexual orientation from the transcript of the show. The day after Maher's comments, Mehlman announced he would step down as chairman of the RNC (although reports said that his resignation had been expected for some time)
Almost four years later Mehlman told the press that he is in fact gay, and that he plans to be an advocate for legalizing same-sex marriage. This disclosure followed years of him avoiding and denying inquiries about his sexual orientation. During his RNC chairmanship, Mehlman supported social positions of the Republican Party, including opposition to same-sex marriage. Mehlman claimed that he could not have gone against party consensus, but acknowledged that, had he come out of the closet earlier, he could have impacted Republican efforts to pass state initiatives and referenda banning same-sex marriage.