(WASHINGTON) — In an Instagram post on Thursday, former Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock came out as gay, linking to a full entry on his personal website.
“I am gay,” Schock said in his post. “For those who know me and for many who only know of me, this will come as no surprise.”
In the post, the former GOP lawmaker said he wanted to tell certain people first before making a public statement.
“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,” he wrote. “In many ways I regret the time wasted in not having done so sooner.”
Schock expressed how he distracted himself from that fact while in Congress, saying, “I did like I’d always done and threw myself into the distraction of work and what I once understood success to be.”
He said he wanted to be responsive to the interests of the constituents in the district that he served, and that included voting in the way he had.
“I assumed that revealing myself as their gay congressman would not go over well. I put my ambition over the truth, which not only hurt me, but others as well,” he said, adding, “I also, in retrospect, realize that I was just looking for more excuses to buy time and avoid being the person I’ve always been.”
Schock has been criticized in the past for his voting record, including following in other conservative lawmakers’ footsteps, voting against pro-LGBTQ legislation and policies.
“The truth is that if I were in Congress today, I would support LGBTQ rights in every way I could,” he said. “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.”
During his tenure, Schock voted against bills protecting the LGBTQ community from hate crimes and the 2010 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which allowed gay and bisexual people to serve in the military.
“I took the same position on gay marriage held by my party’s nominee, [late Arizona Rep.] John McCain,” he said. “That position against marriage equality, though, was also then held by [former Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton and [former President] Barack Obama as well.”
In the early 2000s, amid their reelection campaigns, Clinton and Obama both changed their tone on the subject — becoming advocates for equal rights for the LGBTQ community.
The Obama administration opened the doors for LGBTQ members to serve in the military, instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the “Defense of Marriage Act” — a law that would keep same-sex couples from legally being able to marry — and signed an executive order protecting LGBTQ employees that worked for government contractors.
Schock acknowledged that while he may not have agreed with every vote he cast as a lawmaker, he hasn’t stepped into an entirely new belief system.
“I hope that others can respect that for me being gay has not required stepping into some entirely new belief system, disconnected from every other facet of my life’s experiences,” he said. “I haven’t overcome one kind of repression for another.”
He added, “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.”
Schock was especially scrutinized for re-decorating his Capitol Hill office in the style of the PBS British drama series Downton Abbey, with dark red walls. The redesign even prompted an ethics complaint from the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
In his statement, he said he didn’t understand “why the news media would run with an utterly false story about me and a show I’d never even heard of, and still haven’t seen, Downton Abbey.”
His announcement was trending on Twitter, where members of the LGBTQ community continued to slam him for his past, one writer even going as far as saying he doesn’t deserve a “free pass.”
“I’m glad @AaronSchock finally feels free to be his authentic self publicly, which everyone deserves,” Charlotte Clymer, press secretary for rapid response at the Human Rights Campaign, tweeted.
She added, “but in his long coming out, I saw a lot of defensiveness and excuses for his extensive anti-LGBTQ record in Congress.”
Schock resigned from Congress in June 2015 after drawing speculation on his spending of government funds.
The ex-lawmaker continued to explain that he was the youngest member of Congress at the time he entered and that he “received a lot of attention,” and while he confessed to somewhat enjoying it, he said that attention also “glided toward speculation.”
He faced up to 20 years in prison when he was indicted on two dozen counts that indicated he tried to benefit from his government job, but in March 2019, federal prosecutors agreed to drop all felony corruption charges against Schock.
“I found myself facing an array of false charges involving office and campaign expenses,” he wrote on Instagram.
He added, “That ordeal quickly descended into a years-long struggle to clear my name, so all-consuming that I chose to resign from the House and devote myself almost full time to the effort.”
ABC News reached out to Schock, who did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.