Ken Mehlman, the former Republican party chairman and aide to George Bush, has revealed he is gay.

As a senior Republican figure with a high public profile, Mr Mehlman’s admission of his homosexuality is a bold move at a time when the Republican party are asserting their opposition to the legalisation of same-sex marriage and the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

When Mr Mehlman was asked by the Atlantic magazine to explain how he reconciled his sexuality with the Republican party’s “gay-baiting tactics”, he replied: “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.”

It was during the period 2005-2006 when Mr Mehlman was chairman of the national Republican party that strategists used state referendums banning gay marriage in order to galvanise their voters.

Mr Mehlman said that his move was an important one in order for him to be able to openly support the legalising of marriage for LGBT Americans.

He added: “It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life . . . I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive . . . It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”

He also said that he had been working with the American Foundation for Equal Rights, who back the legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8 which bans gay marriage in the state, by encouraging Republicans to donate funds.