A well known anti-gay California state lawmaker, arrested last week for driving drunk, and stopped by police with a man in the car that he had just picked up in a gay bar, came out of the closet to a radio station last week.
On Monday, March 8, Roy Ashburn told a local radio host “I am gay.”
Ashburn had made a name for himself in California state politics as an unblinking opponent of gay and lesbian civil rights.
The divorced father of four is among those conservative Republican lawmakers with a perfect or near-perfect record of opposing gay rights proposals in his state legislature, including bills to establish same-sex marriage, banning discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity, and to toughen anti-harassment protections for LGBT youths in California’s public schools.
The 55-year-old state senator was arrested March 3 after leaving Faces, a popular gay night club in Sacramento. During his radio interview, Ashburn said that his admission of being gay was “the hardest words that have been so difficult for me for so long.”
Defending keeping his sexual identity secret, Ashburn stated “It is something that is personal, and I don’t believe I felt with my heart that being gay would affect how I do my job.”
Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, which lobbies for same-sex marriage, told the Los Angeles Times its “unfortunate the senator helped spread the bigotry that forced him to stay in the closet.”
“We hope he now takes this opportunity to educate people in his district and throughout the state that his sexual orientation is irrelevant,” Kors added.
It’s certainly not uncommon for people in public service who are secretly gay to speak or take positions against the LGBT community.
Missouri State Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, a lesbian, says “This can be ‘internalized homophobia’–accepting society’s negative opinions until one hates oneself.”
“Or it can be a way to try to hide in a society that accepts prejudice and discrimination as the norm,” she points out, further acknowledging that “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people experience tremendous pressure to deny and to hide their sexual orientations and their relationships.”