A California Republican state senator with a history of voting against expanding the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender persons has officially come out of the closet. Last week State Sen. Roy Ashburn was arrested on suspicion of DUI after reportedly leaving a gay club with an unidentified man. Ashburn is single and has four children.
“I’m gay,” Ashburn told KERN radio host Inga Barks in an interview this morning. “Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long.”
According to Project Vote Smart Ashburn has a long history of voting against gay-rights issues, including a Senate resolution declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional.
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SFist quotes Ashburn saying that his votes against gay-rights issues were “a reflection of how the majority of voters in his conservative district would have wanted him to vote.”
Ashburn has been on leave from the Senate since his arrest.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that in 2004 a reporter asked Ashburn whether he was gay.
In 2004, a reporter with the Bakersfield Californian asked Ashburn directly about his sexual orientation, and the senator said only, “I’m surprised you’re asking that,” according to the newspaper. A columnist there asked him again last year and he said, “I think there are certain subjects that are simply not relevant and this is one of them. It has no bearing on the job I do.”
Ashburn has voted against bills establishing same-sex marriage, banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in businesses, and strengthening anti-bullying and harassment protections for gay youth in public schools.
Equality California, the state’s leading gay rights lobbying organization, has consistently given Ashburn a zero-percent rating in its annual scorecard of lawmakers’ votes on gay rights. Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, said Ashburn has “one of the worst records of anyone in the Legislature” on expanding rights for LGBT people.