Ex-GOP US Rep Schock says he's gay, regrets anti-gay stances

CHICAGO (AP) — Saying he would do more if he were in Congress today to support LGBTQ rights — which he opposed when he served — former Illinois U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock came out as gay Thursday in social media and web posts.

In the postings on Instagram and a webpage, the 38-year-old also describes his anguish at being rejected by members of his deeply religious family, including his mother, after they learned last year he was gay.

The longtime Republican laments that he opposed gay marriage while representing his conservative congressional district in central Illinois, noting Democrat and fellow Illinoisan Barack Obama once held a similar position.

"That fact doesn’t make my then position any less wrong, but it’s sometimes easy to forget that it was leaders of both parties who for so long wrongly understood what it was to defend the right to marry," he writes.

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He adds: "The truth is that if I were in Congress today, I would support LGBTQ rights in every way I could."

The one-time rising GOP star and prolific Republican fundraiser garnered national attention after appearing on the cover of Men’s Health showing off his six-pack abs. He successfully marketed himself during six years in Congress as an unwavering fiscal conservative.

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Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock appears Wednesday, March 6, 2019 after his scheduled hearing at the U.S. Dirksen Courthouse in Chicago, Ill. Federal prosecutors have agreed to drop all charges against him if he pays back money he owes to the Internal Revenue Service and his campaign fund. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, left, appears Wednesday, March 6, 2019 after his scheduled hearing at the U.S. Dirksen Courthouse in Chicago, Ill. Federal prosecutors have agreed to drop all charges against him if he pays back money he owes to the Internal Revenue Service and his campaign fund. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock speaks on the panel at the George W. Bush Institute forum at the Art Institute in Chicago in September 2012. Schock resigned Tuesday amid controversy over his spending habits. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 8: Former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., appears on the House floor after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress, June 8, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Congressman Aaron Schock speaks to the media as he arrives at an immigration reform panel hosted by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition Monday, March 9, 2015, at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. Schock resigned Tuesday amid controversy over his spending habits. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 04: Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Aaron Schock, R-Ill., say goodbye after at the bottom of the House Steps after the last vote of the week in the Capitol, December 4, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: Aaron Shock attends an after party at Poste at the Hotel Monaco after the Kevin Spacey Foundation Benefit Concert at Sidney Harmon Hall on September 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Congressman Aaron Schock attends the 2014 Global Citizen Festival to end extreme poverty by 2030 at Central Park on September 27, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., left, talks with Jim Oberwies, Republican senate candidate for Illinois, during Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill., August 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., right, and Aaron Schock, R-Ill., attend Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill., August 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 04: Sue Martinek of the Coalition for Life of Iowa, talks with Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing in Longworth Building to investigate the IRS's scrutiny of politically based groups. Witnesses included leaders of conservative political groups. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois smiles during an interview with AFP at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on August 28, 2012 during the Republican National Convention. Schock is the youngest member of US Congress, the only one to be born in the 1980s. He's also part of a new generation of conservative lawmakers backed by the Tea Party, working to lower taxes, reduce government aid and ban abortion. AFP PHOTO Brigitte DUSSEAU (Photo credit should read BRIGITTE DUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages)
UNITED STATES – APRIL 19: Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., walks down the House steps following a series of votes on Thursday, April 19, 2012. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 02: Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., is interviewed by Roll Call in his Longworth office. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
PEORIA, IL - MARCH 19: People take photographs as Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) listens to Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during a town-hall campaign meeting on the campus of Bradley University March 19, 2012 in Peoria, Illinois. Romney is campaigning in Illinois the day before that state’s primary elections, when 54 GOP delegates are up for grabs. With Romney in the lead on delegates, fellow candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum continues to compete for the 1,444 necessary to secure the nomination before the last primary, in Utah on June 26. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 22: From left, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Reps. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., and Senate Historian Donald Ritchie unveil a portrait of former Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirsken, R-Ill., which will reside in Kirk's Hart Building office. The portrait is a copy of Richard Harryman's 1968 original. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 16: Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., speaks to the media following the Republicans' "America Speaking Out" forum on job creation on Friday, July 16, 2010. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty Images)
Low angle close-up of former Illinois politician Aaron Schock, participating in a Foreign Affairs Symposium at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, November 5, 2009. From the Homewood Photography Collection. (Photo by JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images)
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Schock resigned from Congress in 2015 amid scrutiny of his spending. He was indicted a year later on charges that accused him of illegally dipping into campaign and government coffers to subsidize a lavish lifestyle. But all charges were dropped in 2019 amid criticism of how prosecutors handled the case.

Schock confirmed the posts' authenticity in a text message to the Journal Star in Peoria, the heart of the congressional district he represented.

As he composed the social media posts, Schock said he knew he could expect sharp criticism from the community to which he said he now wanted to belong.

"Where was I, they will ask, when I was in a position to help advance issues important to gay Americans?" his posting says.

Many longtime supporters of gay-rights blasted him on social media Thursday.

"Anyone can be gay. Everyone who is should be out," said Democratic Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims in a Facebook posting. “But to be a part of a Community, especially one you’ve attacked, you better start with an apology, make amends...."

Schock now understands, he said, that he is indebted to those activists who supported rights he opposed for so long.

"I can live openly now as a gay man because of the extraordinary brave people who had the courage to fight for our rights when I did not," he writes.

Schock starts the postings on both Instagram and the webpage with the words: "I am gay."

He said he began driving to his mother's house from Los Angeles to tell her that last year. But she had learned of it before he arrived and when he spoke with her on the phone en route, "She told me to turn around and go back to LA."

"I’ve come to terms with the fact that it might take my loved ones more time than I would like," he writes. "And I realize some might never come around."

He said he still receives occasional emails from family members "trying to sell me on conversion therapy," the widely debunked notion that someone who is gay can — with therapy — become heterosexual.

Schock described growing up in a conservative Apostolic Christian Church where members even considered "watching TV to be sinfully idle." He said he doesn't think he was aware there were other gays in his midst.

"I understood that the teachings of my upbringing were pretty clear on the matter," he said.

The ambitious Schock began buying real estate in high school, became a member of the local school board at 19 and an Illinois legislator at 23, then entered the U.S. Congress at just 27.

He said the fact he is gay wouldn't be a revelation for many who know him, adding that coming out publicly as gay is “just one of those things in my life in need of explicit affirmation … to finally validate who I am as a person.”

“In many ways," he writes, "I regret the time wasted in not having done so sooner.”

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Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm

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