Lance Bass's Beau: I'm Proud of Him
07/28/2006 AT 01:40 PM EDT
"Lance is happier than he has ever been," Lehmkuhl, 32, tells Access Hollywood in a new interview scheduled to air Friday. "It has been a long ride, and it's a huge relief and I couldn't be happier for him and I couldn't be more proud of him."
When asked if media speculation about the pair's relationship prompted Bass to come out, Lehmkuhl says, "I think through the entire time of being in the closet, anyone is going to feel pressures from this or that."
Bass tells PEOPLE that the rumors partly motivated him to talk about his private life. "The main reason I wanted to speak my mind was that (the rumors) really were starting to affect my daily life. Now it feels like it's on my terms. I'm at peace with my family, my friends, myself and God so there's really nothing else that I worry about."
As for how the revelation might affect Bass's career, Lehmkuhl tells Access, "I think it is always best in your career to be honest. ... He is going to have more support and more happiness and more freedom than he has ever had before and it is going to be a liberating experience. I guarantee it."
Indeed, Bass is developing an Odd Couple-inspired sitcom pilot with his former bandmate Joey Fatone in which his character will be gay.
Lehmkuhl, who was a captain in the United States Air Force, will tell his own story in a book, Here's What We'll Say: A Memoir of Growing Up, Coming Out, and the U.S. Air Force, due out in October.
"I say some things in my book that I'm not really proud of that I did, but I had to do these things for self-preservation," he tells Access. "My book is about a personal journey between myself and other cadets at the Air Force Academy involving our coming to terms with our sexuality while at the same time realizing we had to protect ourselves from it."
So was Bass's recent revelation tied to the release of Lehmkuhl's book? "I have been thinking about writing this book for over 10 years. Lance and I have a very new relationship here," says Lehmkuhl. "Is Lance supportive of the book and excited about it? Yes. Did he prompt me to write it or prompt me to put it out? No."
For more on Lance Bass, pick up PEOPLE, on newsstands now.