California | Roy Ashburn

Roy Ashburn Opens Up To The The LA Times

The LA Times snagged California State Senator Roy Ashburn for a lengthy and candid interview about his life before and after his infamous DUI arrest earlier this year and subsequent forced coming out. In the piece, Ashburn claims that the constituents in his conservative district were " the core" by the revelation that he is gay.


He's asked about his anti-gay voting record and while he apologizes, he does confess that he voted that way to prevent anyone from finding out about his sexual orientation. Said Ashburn:

"The best I can do is to say that I was hiding. I was so in terror I could not allow any attention to come my way. So any measure that had to do with the subject of sexual orientation was an automatic "no" vote. I was paralyzed by this fear, and so I voted without even looking at the content. The purpose of government is to protect the rights of people under the law, regardless of our skin color, national origin, our height, our weight, our sexual orientation. This is a nation predicated on the belief that there is no discrimination on those characteristics, and so my vote denied people equal treatment, and I'm truly sorry for that."

Ashburn also reveals what he believes to be the moment in his young life that initially sparked him to remain a closeted man all this time.

"Something happened that I guess caused me to realize that. When I was in sixth grade, the police had a raid in the sand dunes [near San Luis Obispo] and a bunch of gay men were arrested, probably charged with indecent activity. That sticks in my mind — the publicity and the shame around it. One of my teachers was one of the people. The talk among the kids, the talk among the adults, the talk in the community, the press — at that time the choice was pretty clear: If you were gay and open, it was a life of shame, ridicule, innuendo about molesting and perversion. It was a dark life. Given that choice of whether you come out or whether you're in secret, I mean, there really wasn't a choice."

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  1. I left a comment on the L.A. Times site.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jun 12, 2010 8:04:28 PM

  2. So instead of creating a better environment for other kids to grow up in, one where being gay isn't a shameful sentence, he perpetuated all the structures that make young gays feel ashamed. I'm glad he feels the shame now and he better do all he can to turn those things around.

    Posted by: Tim | Jun 12, 2010 8:16:00 PM

  3. Tim--

    That is true. But to tell his story honestly now is very refreshing. We all have seen plenty of gay politicians whose lives have been exposed in scandals like this one, but this is the first show of remorse I have heard that has the tincture of honesty and a heartfelt apology about it. I won't vote for Republicans, and I am not fond of hypocrites, but I can forgive someone like this guy when he asks for it from our community. Now, I hope he will make amends by working hard to actively empower gays politically.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Jun 12, 2010 8:31:15 PM

  4. I can sympathize with his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality, and I hope that his current candor sheds light on the destructive power of the closet. But I can't sympathize with his civil rights voting record. If you are unable, because of cowardice and personal demons, to vote your conscience and do what's right, then you shouldn't be in politics, period. And it's why hypocrites, who use the closet as an excuse for standing in the way of our equality while protecting their own political ambitions, need to be outed and held accountable for their despicable actions.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jun 12, 2010 8:32:13 PM

  5. I honestly expected to feel more angry, but I am not. He is right about the fear and hatred that permeates our society. We assume that because we were brave enough to come out and face society that every gay person should also have that amount of courage. I grew up in that same area and often felt ostracized. I just knew that I was going to die of shame and misery if I didn't come out at 17. I saw that the pain was not worth the lie I was living. Some people have no idea that the light is better on the other side. Roy Ashbury is one of these people.

    However, his apology is heartfelt and I can only imagine the weight that has been lifted off his shoulder. He made a horrible mistake. Perhaps he will be a lesson to future leaders. Let's hope he will turn into a powerful advocate.

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 12, 2010 9:14:15 PM

  6. I'm just stunned that the LA Times interviewer used the outdated, inaccurate and inappropriate term "sexual preference" numerous times in the interview.

    Does the LA Times not have a Grammar, Style and Usage Manual that discourages the journalistic usage of this 1980's terminology?

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Jun 12, 2010 9:19:06 PM

  7. His past gay-bashing out of fear and shame is unfortunate, but he is setting a great example here and now. Let's hope he paves the way for certain others (Larry Craig, say) to finally -- FINALLY -- be honest.

    Posted by: good for him | Jun 12, 2010 9:46:55 PM

  8. I agree with most of the comments here. I feel the same way. He made a mistake, but he is trying to now do the right thing and make amends. Unlike other politicians like Larry Craig for example. I hope he has the strength to continue and be a role model and advocate now for gay rights.

    Posted by: Mike | Jun 12, 2010 10:27:17 PM

  9. I am inclined to give him a break. He represents one of the most scarily homophobic and conservative districts in the state of California. Most of us have had the benefit of being in better places. The candor he has shown in recent interviews is admirable and I have a lot of respect for that.

    Posted by: Jason | Jun 12, 2010 11:18:06 PM

  10. I can't feel anything but sorrow for Mr. Ashburn. What he did really sucks, but for him to hav an about face like this really shows that his apologies and point of view are heartfelt. I for one welcome him with open arms if he will stay on this path. His life wont end at the end of his term, you know.

    Posted by: Alan E. | Jun 12, 2010 11:22:04 PM

  11. Oh boo fucking hoo. You have a lot of ground to make up, mister. While the rest of us were pusing ahead living our lives and trying to make things better, you were secretly working behind us - all just to protect yourself. My advice to you other than DIAF is you better get to work and start making a difference. Karma is a bitch.

    Posted by: Beef and Fur | Jun 12, 2010 11:52:08 PM

  12. Ah, now everyone should break out singing Kumbaya?

    Sorry. For years he stabbed gays in the back. Look how his votes have hurt at least one generation. He spoke words of hate. Although he is not asking for forgiveness, he should not be embraced until everything he voted against the gay community is overturned - and that won't be in his or our lifetime (there are more like him). I hope the rest of his life, he lives in internal damnation. I am not yet ready for his sudden rebirth nor ready to forgive and forget. If he wasn't caught, he would still be doing the same, possibly running for higher office.

    Posted by: CB | Jun 13, 2010 12:00:46 AM

  13. Nopity for this loser. What was he so afraid of since we've made such great strides in the last 20-30 years? It's not like we're in the 1950's or something. Sorry, but closeted gay ARE the worst evil against gay rights. Complete, selfish cowards. I have the same, if not more, contempt,for such closeted evil gay people as I do for anti-gay straights.

    Posted by: nikko | Jun 13, 2010 12:54:26 AM

  14. his comments, no matter how late ring true to most of us. i thimk we have kept part of ourshelves hidden at one point or another. and except for mcgreevey who finally admitted it. all the others in this position
    have continually denied it or made some other lame excuse. it is too bad that it takes a dui arrest for someone to come to terms with who they are. rekers hagard craig and the one with indecent emails to the pages still claim their not gay. so ashburn is now trying to make a differences.
    i know the closet i served in the army before DADT for three years, so you learn to

    Posted by: walter | Jun 13, 2010 1:01:37 AM

  15. I may think this guy's a total jerk for being so strongly anti-gay... but at the very least he owned up to it after being exposed, unlike all the others.

    Posted by: Yuki | Jun 13, 2010 2:09:11 AM

  16. I'm not surprised that people are unwilling to forgive, but take this interview as a lesson into the psyche of all the closeted conservatives trying to derail civil rights. It's one thing to simply say that they're self-loathing. It's another to actually see how events can twist the mind. I wonder what happened to Haggard, or Rekers, or any of the others, if there was a particular incident, or simply a lifetime of negative reinforcement from their elders.

    Posted by: Zach | Jun 13, 2010 2:49:22 AM

  17. I'm 29 and I've seen people's names, photograph, and home address printed in the newspaper when stings like the sand dunes one he mentioned happen. Hell, I've seen it happen when a "noise complaint" at a private party turns into arrest because evidence of consensual adult gay sex has happened.

    I can see Mr. Ashburn's position. I can even understand his reasoning. I've known the fear of which he speaks. Hell, there have been times since I came out at 17 when things got so bad I considered going back into the closet. I never did, and am glad I didn't, but I DID consider it. I think the way he has handled this recently as at least earned him a chance to atone for his past deeds, and I look forward to seeing what he does with this chance. So far, he's not doing too bad.

    Posted by: Steve | Jun 13, 2010 5:54:47 AM

  18. I understand the anger against him, but I honestly admire him for what he's doing right now.

    And I hope he doesn't hear too much of those who tell him to go and die in a fire already - because what those of you who say that do, is keep them in the closet. We have to show people who are in the closet that if they come out genuinely and if they really do a 180, then they'll be supported like any gay person ought to be supported. They have to work at it of course, but to me it seems Ashburn is working toward it, and with a little encouragement he could actually go on and and campaign for gay rights.

    Right now, he's testing the waters, and see if people are ready to support him in this way. I'm not saying we have to forgive and forget - but we can give him the benefit of the doubt.

    In any case, and although I loathe closet-cases, we should never forget that people in the closet are the victims. And I truly pity them.

    Lastly, Ashburn shouldn't be compared to Reker: Reker made an entire career campaigning against gays and gay rights. Ashburn just went along the Republican party lines, and voted against us. It's still a big thing, of course, and not only should he apologize, but also make it up to the community, but that's hardly on the same scale as the Rekers or Haggard's cases!

    Posted by: Charles | Jun 13, 2010 6:29:51 AM

  19. It just goes to show you not to be afraid of Republicans, I hope that you have learned your lesson, not that you are out of office. Benedict Arnold!

    Posted by: Jeff Dunivant | Jun 13, 2010 7:46:02 AM

  20. There is only one way in which Ashburn can make up for his cowardice, and there is nothing in the interview that suggests that Ashburn is willing or able to do it.

    Ashburn MUST make it so that others who tread with the fear he did look to embrace themselves for themselves. So far, and including this feeble effort, Ashburn is justifying to others that the closet is their safe zone protecting exposure of their cowardice.

    So he's not pulling a Larry Craig denial; but he neither is emboldening others how facing the same fears of a self-destructive self-loathing life. Give me a Johnny Weir any time over this crunt.

    Posted by: Mike in Asheville | Jun 13, 2010 8:36:47 AM

  21. There is no way in the world Ashburn can make up for his cowardice.


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jun 13, 2010 8:49:43 AM

  22. Hey guys, he's a politician & he's human. Has he now had some kind of epiphany? Maybe; time will tell.

    Whatever his personal struggles, he ACTIVELY sought & succeeded in limiting the rights of fellow citizens b/c of sexual orientation.

    You can argue that he had the support of his constituents, but if he had supported the exclusion of Jews & Blacks from the golf club would you be so understanding? I doubt it.

    Yes, we can forgive, because who are we to judge another regardless, BUT this guy has a lot of work to do repairing the REAL damage he has done.

    Posted by: stephen | Jun 13, 2010 9:04:15 AM

  23. Right. So because of what Ashburn saw when he was in 6th grade we should all just forgive, forget and sing praises to the ADULT Ashburn who not only did nothing to get rid of his problems, not only missed the fact that it's not the '50s anymore, and he most certainly is not Ennis Del Mar, not only did he miss everything lots of men and women (who too could have seen their fair part of horrific things as kids but STILL fought for who they are) did to drag the community forward, but he ALSO repeatedly stabbed gay people in the back in every imaginable way (except the only way he really wanted, hehe)!!!

    Sorry, but no can do. It's OK to be afraid. To stay in the closet. To lie and deny. Hell, it's still even widely accepted to use women as protective shields without their knowledge of the truth, and how pathetic is that? But it's NOT OK - and never will be, and no apology will make it so - ripping people off their citizen rights! Go and be a janitor. Be a pizza boy. A carpenter. ANYTHING except someone in charge of defending - or threatening! in this case - the human rights.

    Posted by: Sam | Jun 13, 2010 9:19:41 AM

  24. I understand what Ashburn went through, I understand what he was feeling. Many of us have. But I am not sympathetic nor do I give him a 'warm and fuzzy' pass because of what he did as a legal representative. This man states he "never even read" legislature that dealt with sexaul orientation. It was just a "no" for him because of his cowardice. This man put his own self ahead of what his job was, what he was elected to do. It's so disgustingly self-centered. And who knows how many countless people it hurt all because of "him." Lack of conviction is one thing, but out and out selfishness and cowardess is another.

    And what has he done? He is forced out of the closet by his own mistakes, he now mea culpas his past voting record. Do you think there is a large portion of his homophobic constituents that are now rethinking how they feel about gay men and women? The answer would be yes --- they are thinking, "Wow, another fag fooled us and he's a complete coward and liar, just like most fags. Gays are even worse than we thought." That will be the conclusion for most of those people.

    I understand the process of coming out, of dealing with your sexuality. But Mr. Ashburn made it just that much harder for the next guy. Forced self-revelation doesn't hold much weight, I'm sorrys are mere whispers amid a tornado. I'm happy for him personally, professionally and in the much larger scheme of things, I find him to be sad, disgusting, and dishonorable.

    Posted by: Bart | Jun 13, 2010 9:21:48 AM

  25. Folks, all he can do at this point is admite he did the wrong thing (he's done that) and be aggressive in the prusuit of equality going forward (we'll see). When someone writes there is "no way in the world he can make up for his cowardice," what you're really saying is "once my enemy, always my enemy." That is not how civil rights battles are won. WE NEED CONVERTS.

    To the detractors I would say, be as big a man as he is being right now. You're not better than a hater if you also hate.

    Posted by: JusticeontheRocks | Jun 13, 2010 9:38:02 AM

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