If Mehlman came to terms with his sexuality sooner than his discussions with Ambinder or Politico’s Mike Allen suggest, then he did have the opportunity to reach out to the gay community while in power. And his timing now—unshackled by a (slightly) more tolerant GOP, spurred by the Prop 8 debate and his new work for gay rights—is as political as was his decision to stay mum while at the top of the GOP. His apology is dishonest.

Of course, that’s a lot of ifs. And one can’t blame some mainstream outlets for playing up the impact of a prominent gay GOP-er on the gay marriage debate. It’s a very interesting shift. And Mehlman has as much right to privacy to as Clay Aitken or anyone else who chooses their own time to come out. But we have a right to ask questions that arise in his story when he chooses to make it public. A responsibility to do so in this case, which is about the future of more than pop music or tennis.

“Exactly when did you realize this about yourself?” is a legitimate question here. The whole premise of Mehlman’s public regret hinges on it. As does the LGBT community’s new embrace of him. “Fairly recently” might not cut it as an answer. He should have been pushed. Before Mehlman is emblemized as an agent of tolerance today, we should hold him fully accountable for yesterday.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.