[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/25/art.mehlman.gi.jpg caption="Former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman has told The Atlantic he is gay."]Washington (CNN) - Former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman is responding to criticism of his role in a Bush political operation that called for a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.
"It was something about my life I was having a hard time accepting then and I can't change that," Mehlman said in a phone interview Thursday with CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, before adding "I understand people who are going to be angry."
Mehlman told "The Atlantic" he was gay in an article published Wednesday.
Mehlman told CNN on Thursday he now regrets not reaching out to the gay community during his tenure, but said he has to "look forward" and "do what I think is right." Since his announcement he has received both criticism and support from members of the gay community.
Mehlman was particularly aggressive in his past efforts to attract members of the African-American community to the Republican Party, skills he now says he regrets not applying to the gay community.
"When you don't accept a part of your life it makes things unbelievably difficult on all kinds of levels and this is an example of that. Knowing how much I tried to push the envelope in other areas in attracting new constituencies to our party, I look back and wish there was something I had done in this area," Mehlman said.
Mehlman is one of the most prominent members of the Republican Party to say he is gay, and is now raising money for the pro-same sex marriage effort in California, and also offering strategic advice to proponents.