California Republican state senator Roy Ashburn, who announced he was gay in March after being arrested for a DUI on his way home from a gay nightclub, spoke out about gay rights on the Senate floor today and voted on two separate bills.
Ashburn was the only Republican senator to vote in support of allowing openly gay people to serve in the military, but he also voted against a bill that could remove a political obstacle to proposals to legalize same-sex marriage.
Ashburn then took the unusual step of publicly explaining his votes on the Senate floor.
'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 told his colleagues. 'However, I am no longer willing or able to remain silent on issues that affect sexual orientation and the rights of individuals. And so I am doing something that is quite different and foreign to me, and it's highly emotional.' … He has said his past votes reflect his constituents' votes, but said Thursday 'The public supports allowing openly gay people to serve in the military.'
The resolution passed the state Senate on a vote of 24-7. Ashburn said being gay did not affect one's ability to serve in the military. 'The current policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' is clearly out of date and discriminatory,' he said."
Ashburn voted "no" on a measure that would have clarified a clergy member would not be required to perform civil marriages that contradict his or her faith, the Sacramento Bee reports:
"He said he strongly supports provisions in the bill aimed at 'protecting the rights of those in the religious community against any repressions.' But he said he could not vote for the bill because language includes "civil" to describe marriages covered under the measure.
'This proposal occurs on top of the vote of the people on Proposition 8 and on the litigation that ensued and that the very likely event that marriage will be back on the ballot," he said. "I think that creates a confusing, untenable situation that is not helpful on this whole issue.'"