California | Roy Ashburn

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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 "shocked...to the core" by the revelation that he is gay.

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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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Comments

  1. For Mr. Ashburn to publicly state that he is gay and to recognize his mistakes is a huge step -- and one that we have not seen from people like Larry Craig, George Rekers, and Ted Haggard. (Mark Foley, I guess, is more in the Ashburn camp, but a little late to atone as a legislator for his past mistakes.) I'd rather see other closeted politicians and homophobes in power take the route Mr. Ashburn has taken; but I can't blame them for staying in if they see that the LGBT community won't support them after they come out. I'm glad to see that so many of the posters above recognize the difference between Mr. Ashburn's revelation and apology and the stance taken by those trying to stay in the closet even after having been caught. I feel we have to support our brothers and sisters wherever they are on their journey.

    Posted by: DougChgo | Jun 13, 2010 9:48:17 AM


  2. Why should we support him?

    He has the money and power and the connections -- not us.

    Had he not been pulled over and arrested for DUI he'd STILL be in the closet and STILL doing everythign in his power to hurt the rest of us.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jun 13, 2010 10:29:11 AM


  3. Well, his apology for his cowardly voting record is rather weak since it comes *after* he already decided to end his political career. Especially since he doesn't plan on doing anything such as community outreach or campaigning to make up for it.

    p.s. He's never apologized to Hispanics for the anti-immigrant rhetoric....and his rent-boy of choice is young, gay, Hispanic, and illegal.

    Posted by: Wheezy | Jun 13, 2010 10:29:37 AM


  4. "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."

    Actually, the "detractors" here ARE better than he is if they aren't actively working to deprive other human beings of equal rights. I see more sympathy here than hate, and even those, including myself, who are severely critical of his cowardice as a politician have some empathy for his struggles as a gay man born in a less welcoming era.

    But, sorry, no one forced him to be a politician who voted repeatedly against his own kind, and no excuses now can heal that damage. There's a big difference between a closet case living his private hell and one setting public policy, against us! If his harshest critics here are living open lives of integrity and are working for our rights--as opposed to deliberately blocking them--they are better men than he is.

    He's the one who needs to keep atoning, not his critics here. And in that atonement process I wish him all the best.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jun 13, 2010 10:53:01 AM


  5. Ernie, I'm not defending what the guy did. He was wrong. Maybe he'll get it right this time, maybe he won't. My point is that if we want people to change, we can't keep on villifying them when they've done what we wanted. That serves no purpose. And it is bad for business.

    Barney Frank is treated as a hero and he was "outed" when he let a male prostitute run his excort service out of Barney's apartment. Gerry Studds had sex with minors. They got a pass. This guy may not deserve a pass, but it's in everyone's interest to shut up and give him a chance.

    Posted by: JusticeontheRocks | Jun 13, 2010 11:16:14 AM


  6. No it isn't.

    Gerry Studds is gone now, but Barney Frank is still here and his contributions are at best problematic. He's still an old-fashioned professional politician, and the frequent lectures he gives the rest of us for darign to speak in loud voice and demand our rights is projectile-vomit-provoking.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jun 13, 2010 11:25:39 AM


  7. As many have said, if not for his DUI he'd still be shitting on us. Like McGreevy, who was outed by his black mailing ex, these closeted politicians only come to us because they have no where else to go.

    Let him try and make amends, but until he's undone the damage he's still a shit.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Jun 13, 2010 11:28:39 AM


  8. Bart made an interesting observation. What would this guy's constituents think after his episode and statement? Bart answered correctly, I think, that his homophobic constituents would respond in a repulsive, negative way. However, I think that there are some people who were raised as Thugs who may be less closed minded. I have a feeling that his explanation of his behavior and his honesty can possibly start opening their minds, if only just a bit. Just projecting myself a bit, I think he could produce a very sympathetic response in people who aren't haters to the core.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Jun 13, 2010 11:32:51 AM


  9. I can't believe how quick people are to defend and sympathize with this man. No one *made* him run for office. No one even *made* him run as a conservative republican. He has actively damaged the lives of many and perpetuated fear and prejudice against gays and lesbians for years. And why did he do this? Not for his constituents. Not to uphold his own personal beliefs. It was out of heartless paranoia and cowardice. His own bullshit personal issues. He has shown no respect for us willfully defecated or our nation's system of representative democracy.

    He only now expresses remorse because he's been caught with his pants down. He doesn't deserve our forgiveness or sympathy. He's an asshole and knew exactly what he was doing. His only regret now is that he's been caught and that it may cost him his job, any future income, and his legacy.

    Posted by: Bastian | Jun 13, 2010 11:43:45 AM


  10. While I respect all the opinions expressed so far, I want to point out the larger context of what this means to Mr. Ashburn and us. He came out in one of the most conservative districts in California (which overwhelmingly supported Prop 8), one in which daily violence and threats against the LGBT community is common, and where they are most resistent to change of any kind in their community. Bakersfield must now come to terms that it did in fact elect a gay man to a powerful position, and by coming out he is in a place where he is changing minds and perceptions of what a gay man is like in our modern society. Hopefully his coming out will dispel the shame and fear that has permeated the area in which his resides. I doubt he'll be re-elected in his district, but I'm glad that he has confronted the overwhelming hatred and discrimination found in his district with his honesty and atonement. I for one support him, as to come out this late in life will help others in his position in his district.

    Posted by: Keith | Jun 13, 2010 12:13:27 PM


  11. David E., You are, if anything, too kind to Barney Frank. He is not a hero and Ashburn certainly isn't either.

    Being a human being is an evolutionary process. Ashburn is evolving. They guy said he did the wrong thing. What more at this point does anyone want him to do?

    You don't have to forgive. You don't have to forget. But you have to move forward. People do change their minds. That's one of our objectives. Let's see how this plays out. In the meantime, the continuing acrimony toward the guy, while understandable, is couterproductive.

    Posted by: JusticeontheRocks | Jun 13, 2010 12:22:15 PM


  12. When I read Sen Asburn's comments, I was so revulsed that I vomited all over myself. What is it with these Republicans? How can any Gay person align themselves with such a party? Has everyone suddenly forgotten what political party controlled the South and kept the negro population in effective slavery until Lyndon Johnson had the guts to say "Enough"? Do the "Log Cabin Republicans" really think their party leaders will do anything for them except take their financial contributions?

    Posted by: Jerry12 | Jun 13, 2010 3:23:42 PM


  13. JusticeO -- if a parent abuses you (continually) is it "counterproductive" to not like them? Not to sympathize with them? Even if you "move ahead" with your life, you don't then let your children stay with them because you're "past all of that." Sorry.

    One reason Mr. Ashburn doesn't get a group hug is because nothing he's done has been of his own valition. He was caught. And that's the only reason he's come out (a very bad term for what he's done. He didn't "come out" that would imply it was voluntary.)

    And I don't think anyone here is not "moving on." This isn't making anyone stand still. We're all used to these sort of events now, they don't stop anyone in their tracks with distaste for this guy. We're all simply reacting to the interview he gave. And many of us here feel, while we're glad he's dealing with his own issues, mea culpas don't take away past actions. Those actions must stand on their own and the person who has committed those action is accountable. I hardly think Mr. Ashburn is St. Paul. He served in the legislature for 26 years. And during that time - out of fear - he stepped on people's human rights, their civil rights.

    And I believe there is only one posting on here where the word "hate" was included. I don't hate this guy (I don't hate anybody) but I am certain he's a liar and a coward. Does that mean I haven't moved ahead? No. I move ahead knowing who he has proved himself to be. Whatever direction he takes his life now, even if it's a positive one for gay men and women doesn't change that.

    And Keith -- Bakersfield will not come to terms that it elected a gay man, it will come to terms that it elected a gay man WHO LIED TO THEM. That's more damaging. In many people's eyes, the biggest negative is not that Ashburn is gay, it's that he's a liar, he deceived them willfully and blatantly...AND he's gay. All that has done is reenforce a negative stereotype.

    I don't believe anyone here needs to "forgive" Mr. Ashburn. It's not in our power or our responsibility. But it's important to note how the entirety of what Mr. Ashburn has done, from his voting record, to his forced revelation, to his lies, to his apologies, add up to a man that is sad, self-loathing, deceitful and shockingly weak in character and truth. I agree, there is nothing positive about relishing in this or keeping this story alive, but there's nothing positive about this at all except Mr. Ashburn says he's happier. and I can assure you that that doesn't matter to me and many other either.

    Posted by: Bart | Jun 13, 2010 3:41:01 PM


  14. Apology accepted. Now go have a little fun, and then do some good.

    Posted by: Yeek | Jun 13, 2010 3:57:34 PM


  15. The anger and frustration of the LGB community with an elected official of his type is justified and understandable. A Benedict Arnold to be sure. However, the harm that he did must be seen in the context of gerrymandered districts (either Dem or Rep.)whose representatives will never deviate from the party line no matter their sexual orientation.
    Thus, had his district been represented by a hetero platinum blond Fox News type bimbo there would be an identical voting record. The problem is the Repug party and its sleeping with the fundamentalist religious right. Until that marriage hurts the electoral chances of the so-called GOP, nothing will change in districts they represent.

    Posted by: Contrarian | Jun 13, 2010 6:08:13 PM


  16. As if your opinion matters, Ehrenstink.

    Posted by: GrabbinNewscum | Jun 13, 2010 6:49:49 PM


  17. While I find his apology less than satisfying I have to give this guy credit for not calming the old "addiction" excuse or pulling some crap like "I voted as my constituents wanted me to". He admitted that he's gay, explained why I personally felt he hid it (and I can't deny his reason is credible although not one I would use) and further apologized for his failure to serve ALL the people. I'm willing to wait and see if Ashburn's apology was sincere and if he lives the remainder of his life in a more humane manner than he's lived the previous portion. Should he choose to revert to what he was before then he's deserving of all the hatred directed his way.

    Posted by: ChrisM | Jun 13, 2010 7:05:02 PM


  18. Those willing to give him a pass are cowards and fools. His voting record is INDEFENSIBLE AND UNFORGIVABLE. He's not going to be a "politician" soon, and thus his ability to make any kind of difference in that capacity will have ended. No...we don't need to embrace everyone and anyone just because they're gay...that is a bad strategy.

    Posted by: TANK | Jun 13, 2010 7:35:23 PM


  19. @Justice, I never said you were defending what Ashburn did, because you weren't. I was taking exception to your idea that Ashburn detractors here are no better than he is. I'm sorry, if we're living open, honest lives, if we're working towards achieving our equality rather than working against it, if we're not hypocrites, then yes we are better than he is, however harsh our criticisms. The criticisms here aren't hurting him (or us) in any real way; the same can't be said of his voting record. It takes more than candor to earn redemption after what he's done.

    I do agree, however, that what's done is done and that his honesty now is commendable even if it can't undo the harm he's caused. His past deserves vilification, his present doesn't.

    As for Barney Frank and the late Gerry Studds, they hardly got a pass, and Barney still doesn't, obviously. He also, while hardly the perfect politician, doesn't have a record of voting against gay rights. Ashburn does. Compare their gay rights voting records. It's odd to find anyone more sympathetic towards the clearly anti-gay right-wing Ashburn than towards pro-gay Democrats who were out for many years while Ashburn was busy voting against us.

    I wish Ashburn well on his hopefully more honest journey forward, and he indeed may do some good in the world and even within the Republican party, but there are reasons to keep talking about the danger and damage of the closet, particularly among conservative politicians who cower behind their party's extreme homophobic ideology to cover up their sexuality. I believe it's more useful to talk about that than to retread ancient and inaccurate Frank/Studds comparisons.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jun 13, 2010 8:06:25 PM


  20. I understated what Ashburn is saying, about being a feared of who you are and what other people might think or say but it doesn't make up for all the wrong and hateful choices he's mad.

    I just hope he finds piece and we live a better life.

    Posted by: Dawnell_do | Jun 14, 2010 2:15:27 AM


  21. Anyone know if Senator Ashburn has an email address for his out of district supporters?

    I think that pushing support for him can only help the next person come out as well.

    Posted by: Joe Cooper | Jun 14, 2010 9:31:16 AM


  22. No, I'm not at the point of complete forgiveness (and I won't forget) but his words thusfar do indicate a genuine sense of contrition which we have not seen in a lot of cases so, yes, I'm warming up to Ashburn but he has a lot of work to do.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Jun 14, 2010 11:48:58 AM


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