Former Republican Representative Aaron Schock, who had voted against LGBT protections while in Congress, came out as gay Thursday in a post on his website. The one-time Illinois congressman said he would be fighting for LGBT rights now if he was still in office.
"I am gay," Schock, 38, wrote in the lengthy post.
"The fact that I am gay is just one of those things in my life in need of explicit affirmation, to remove any doubt and to finally validate who I am as a person. In many ways, I regret the time wasted in not having done so sooner."
The post describes Schock's religious upbringing in the rural Midwest and how he "didn't want to think about" his sexual orientation as he grew up. "I always preferred to force my thoughts in other directions, leaving a final answer about that for another day," he said.
Schock represented Illinois' 18th congressional district from 2009 to 2015, when he left office over athat led to federal charges which were eventually dropped. He was only 27 when he entered office, making him the youngest person in Congress.
During his tenure, Schock voted against several LGBT protections, including the legalization of gay marriage, the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy and an amendment to federal hate crime laws covering sexual orientation and gender identity. In a study of lawmakers' support for LGBT causes, the Human Rights Campaign gave Schock a score of zero.
Schock also earned notoriety in Congress for his media profile, which included appearing on TMZ, posting workout photos on Instagram and showing off his six-pack abs on a Men's Health cover that called him "America's fittest congressman." There were rumors at the time that Schock was gay, which he denied, saying the speculation was not "worthy of further response."
In his coming out post, Schock did not apologize for his votes or further explain them. But he said other gay people in politics had "cautioned" him about what to expect when he comes out. "Where was I, they will ask, when I was in a position to help advance issues important to gay Americans?" he wrote.
"The truth is that if I were in Congress today, I would support LGBTQ rights in every way I could," Schock added. "I realize that some of my political positions run very much counter to the mainstream of the LGBTQ movement, and I respect them for those differences. I hope people will allow for me the same."
Schock said his family disowned him when he came out and still sends him emails about conversion therapy, but his mother appeared to become more accepting and he was "optimistic" about his future.
Schock resigned in March 2015 amid scrutiny over his lavish spending with taxpayer and campaign money, which he used for expenses like private flights, Super Bowl tickets and remodeling his congressional office with a "Downton Abbey" theme.
A federal grand jury in November 2016 indicted him on 24 counts, including theft of government funds and filing false tax returns. Schockwith prosecutors in March 2019 to drop the charges if he paid back his taxes and reimbursed his campaign. Schock said after the that he was not ruling out a return to politics.