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.


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."


  1. Tim says

    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.

  2. candideinnc says


    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.

  3. says

    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.

  4. Michael says

    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.

  5. TampaZeke says

    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?

  6. good for him says

    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.

  7. Mike says

    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.

  8. Jason says

    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.

  9. Alan E. says

    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.

  10. Beef and Fur says

    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.

  11. says

    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.

  12. nikko says

    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.

  13. walter says

    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

  14. Yuki says

    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.

  15. Zach says

    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.

  16. Steve says

    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.

  17. Charles says

    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!

  18. Jeff Dunivant says

    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!

  19. Mike in Asheville says

    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.

  20. stephen says

    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.

  21. Sam says

    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.

  22. Bart says

    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.

  23. JusticeontheRocks says

    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.

  24. DougChgo says

    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.

  25. says

    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.

  26. Wheezy says

    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.

  27. says

    “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.

  28. JusticeontheRocks says

    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.

  29. says

    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.

  30. patrick nyc says

    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.

  31. candideinnc says

    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.

  32. Bastian says

    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.

  33. Keith says

    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.

  34. JusticeontheRocks says

    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.

  35. Jerry12 says

    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?

  36. Bart says

    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.

  37. Contrarian says

    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.

  38. ChrisM says

    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.

  39. TANK says

    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.

  40. says

    @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.

  41. Dawnell_do says

    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.

  42. Joe Cooper says

    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.

  43. Chitown Kev says

    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.

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