Roy Ashburn Scores High With Equality California

Roy Ashburn's life has changed considerably since his arrest in Sacramento earlier this year.

Equality California has just ranked him a very respectable score on their legislative list – 86. That's much higher than his ranking last year, when it was zero. The California State Senator claims that it was his coming out that changed how he does his job these days.

The Sacramento Bee reports:

6a00d8341c730253ef0133f365b61d970b Sen. Roy Ashburn, who came out earlier this year after rumors surfaced that he was at a gay night club the night he was arrested for drunken driving, scored 86 percent in
Equality California's 2010 legislative scorecard — higher than some Democrats on the list.

The Bakersfield Republican was given a grade of zero percent from the group in 2009 , when he voted against or abstained on every single bill included in the ranking.

This year, he supported 12 out of 14 of the measures that factored into the Senate scores.

Ashburn defended his earlier record after publicly disclosing his sexual orientation earlier this year — saying his votes were aligned with the views of his district constituents — but soon changed his course by speaking out and voting for a handful of LGBT-supportive bills.

"I would not have been speaking on a measure dealing with sexual orientation ever, prior to the events that have transpired in my life over the last three months," Ashburn said on the floor this year, during a vote for a bill he ultimately did not support. "I am no longer willing or able to remain silent on issues that affect sexual orientation, the rights of individuals and so I'm doing something that is quite different and foreign to me."

Click here to see how other politicians fared on Equality California's scorecard.

What else is Ashburn up to these days? Like most people these days he's working on a book which, according to the Bakersfield Californian, will be out "soon."


  1. naughtylola says

    So is there any measure of atonement for past deeds going on with any of these people coming out only because they got caught doing something naughty? Going forward, sure they are doing the right thing but what about all those years of doing the wrong thing (and not just going along with the wrong thing being done around them, I mean actively seeking out the opportunity to do the wrong thing, a la Ken Mehlman?) I would put Ashburn in that column because he deliberately went into politics with the aim of representing a group of people who do not want any measure of LBGT equality. He spent years doing their bidding entirely by choice. Does all that get wiped away because he was yanked out of the closet when he got popped for a DUI with some that he’d just picked up at the bar? I feel like as far as acts of absolution, that’s kind of thin.

  2. candideinnc says

    Who am I to judge? He is doing good things for now (book deal possibly excepted.) Let’s not cast stones. I have so many other areas of strong disagreement with the Thugs, I don’t need to use the guy’s homosexuality as an issue.

  3. ehllo says

    I’m impressed with this man. Yes, he was an ass while he was closeted. Yes, that hurt people. But if we cannot forgive people who change, then we will stay stuck in this silly, entrenched war–us vs. them. Forever.

    That’s not progress. Unless you like to fight for fighting’s sake, you must be willing to forgive your enemies, especially when they raise the white flag and offer an outstretched hand.

    If Nelson Mandela was able to do that for the people who held him in a prison for decades, then we can certainly try it in cases like Roy Ashburn’s.

  4. Vince says

    “Ashburn defended his earlier record after publicly disclosing his sexual orientation earlier this year — saying his votes were aligned with the views of his district constituents”

    Ashburn is my state senator… for a few more weeks at least. He NEVER represented me or my views so I send him a hearty “fuck you” and “I hope to never see you again”.

  5. says

    @Ehllo : I agree , we have to give enough space to those whose courage has failed them in the past.
    They deserve the same happiness as the rest of us rather than being tortured by their denial of their same sex natures
    @ VINCE: …..all of the above provided he does not attack us or seek to vote down our entitlements to absolute equality in all civil rights issues. Yeah, if the fail we seek vengeance on such traitors.

  6. naughtylola says

    @Ehllo, forgive just because someone wants you to? I forgive only if I see that the person asking my forgiveness has done something to make amends for the wrong. If they are just continuing on their way as if they had not mistreated me, then absolutely not, no way.

  7. says

    I’m glad he’s doing the (mostly) right thing now.

    But he was either lying when he said “his votes were aligned with the views of his district constituents,” or he is not voting the way his constituents want him to now. Which is it? Liar before, or liar now?

  8. Mike in the Tundra says

    I object to those that say he came out. He did not willingly come out. Someone ripped the damn door off his closet.

  9. says

    Considering how much distraught he brought through his tenure I have a hard time forgiving. It makes you wonder how many gays were harmed or died due to his legislative ignorance. It’s like forgiving Hitler for the Holocaust.

  10. Lonnie says

    Ashburn is the representative from my hometown of Bakersfield. We need to be absolutely clear that he could not have made this radical change in position without the visible, loud, and proud organizing and protest efforts in response to Proposition 8 and the LGBT movement more broadly. This loud, proud, and assertive perspective is a stark contrast to the passive, behind-the-scenes deal-making of Gay Inc (Equality California included). When we unapologetically fight for our rights (instead of begging for them on Lobby Days), we not create the conditions for winning our rights, but we inspire confidence in those who do not currently stand with us due to the impact of the closet. Gay Inc’s method is self-defeating and it’s time we dropped it in favor of methods that are proven to work.

  11. Lonnie says

    With regard to Ashburn “atoning” for the harm he caused when he was in the closet, hell yes, he must. He has a hell of a lot to make up for. But something about this question bothers me. Why does the LGBT community refuse to hold the Democrats to the same standard? Why are the Democrats allowed to attack us and why are we always expected to support them when they attack us? We don’t need them as much as they need us.

  12. justiceontherocks says

    @CB – comparing him to Hitler is a little over the top.

    Barney Frank came out of the closet because he was caught fixing tickets for his lover, a male prostitute. Gerry Studds came out because he was involved with underaged Congressional pages. They both got a free pass. Maybe we should cut Ashburn a little slack.

  13. says

    @ justiceontherocks

    It was meant to be. We will never know the extent of harm he did to the gay community by his voting actions. As for Frank & Stubbs, they never voiced opposition to the gay community, nor did they work hard to push for anti-gay legislation…Roy Ashburn did. His actions helped to set back gay legislation and equality. You expect us now to accept him with open arms and embrace him because he is now openly gay? He is leaving office because of term limits. Isn’t is suddenly convenient that he is trying to embrace the gay community now that he is going to be out of office, especially since his constituency are probably shunning him because he is gay and a liar?

  14. mike says

    It will be a long process of self-reflection and education for Ashburn as he sorts through the damage his closeted life has caused. Of course, this assumes that he will make himself aware of the harm he has done.

    As with Ken Mehlman, we are right to doubt these newly-outed public figures. After all, they worked against us for years with enthusiasm and without shame, knowing full well that they were hurting the lives of millions of Americans.

    12 pro-LGBT votes does not an ally make. But, I’ll give Ashburn the benefit of the doubt. I will not give the same benefit of the doubt to Ken Mehlman.

  15. says

    Ashburn’s past can’t be undone, and he should be held accountable for the harm he caused. I do, however, respect the path he is taking out of disgrace. It doesn’t erase his voting record–nothing can–but he demonstrates that outing can have a positive effect on people. If he keeps speaking up, his example is valuable.

    @LONNIE: Anti-gay Democrats need to be held accountable, too. And they have been. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know how much the Dem’s get criticized by the gay community. But look at the Dem vs. Repub records linked from this post: there is a real difference between the parties, and that difference is the Dem’s voting records are vastly better than their Repub counterparts on gay rights. 0-25% support (typical Repub) is very different from 75-100% support (typical Dem). The Repub’s get raked over the coals more because they deserve to be.

    @JUSTICE; The Studds/Frank comparisons aren’t apt in 2010. First off, they were outed decades ago–being out from the 1980s on is quite different from being out for a few months in this day and age. And they didn’t have anti-gay voting records even back then. And neither of them got a free pass–their outings are still being held against them, even by gay people. That’s not a free pass.

  16. John says

    Which elected Democrats in California are attacking you exactly?

    Governor Moonbeam and his new sidekick Gavin Newsom won. As far as I know, both of them are for same-sex marriage. Democrats in the state legislature actually voted for marriage equality twice. They have also passed every other piece of gay rights legislation over the objections of people like Roy Ashburn pre-2010.

    Ashburn’s rehabilitation in his final year as a state senator seems genuine. So I am not going to cast dispersions about that.

    But the moral equivalency only works if the other side is just as bad. That is certainly not the case with the Democrats in California. And punishing them for the sins of the federal Democratic Party is counter-intuitive. Take the criticism directly to the people who deserve it.

  17. says


    Baby steps, Lola. Personally, im pleased to see an outed conservative politician who doesnt feel they need to continue voting and making policy contrary to our interests in the service of “making a point” or a desperate attempt to retain their “in-crowd” status.

    I know its depressing to think of it in these terms, but even marginal progress is still progress. We arent going to get social reparations from every outed politician, and we cannot expect every outed politician to base the remainder of their career on the idea of doing penance for everything that they did while publicly closeted. I know thats not satisfying, but its true. If his record re: us has improved since coming out, then thats a good thing, and I support him in it. To focus on how “its not enough” is to discount the progress that HAS been made.

  18. Chitown Kev says


    I agree with you.

    Ashburn has traveled further-much further, in fact- down the road than Ken Mehlman. I like what I am seeing so far.