Davina Kotulski

DUI Arrest: Senator's One Year Coming Out Anniversary

Filed By Davina Kotulski | March 05, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Bakersfield, California, coming out of the closet, drunk driving, roy ashburn

This week marks the one year anniversary of former Senator Roy Ashburn's DUI arrest and subsequent coming out as a gay man.

roy-ashburn.jpegAs you may recall, Republican Senator Roy Ashburn from Bakersfield, California, was arrested for drunk driving in Sacramento after leaving Faces, a gay bar near the California capitol. A few days later, Senator Ashburn publicly revealed that he was gay and had been living in the closet for decades.

Unlike Ted Haggard or Senator Larry Craig, Senator Ashburn was done with hiding and he was ready to free himself from the lies and the pain of the closet. What followed was outrage from many in the LGBT community over Senator Ashburn's anti-gay voting record, including the fact that twice he voted against the marriage equality bill. In fact, the year previous, Senator Ashburn had received the "Pink Brick Award" from the San Francisco LGBT Pride Association.

In the past I might have felt that same outrage. I remember when Ted Haggard was outed in 2006, I was talking on the phone with Mel White, the founder of Soul Force. I remember saying, "Isn't that great? What a hypocritical jerk."

I was surprised by Mel's response. He said something to the effect of "We need to pray for Brother Ted. He's hurting right now. We should reach out to him, forgive him, not punish him." Needless to say, at that point in my personal and spiritual development those were radical words. Since then, however, I've experiences people from the "other side" having changes of heart and mind and knowing that they need love and support as they release their old communities and take bold steps towards what I would call "the real light" - the light of acceptance, self-love, and authenticity.

This is why when Senator Roy Ashburn was arrested, I felt called to reach out to him. I did not know him personally, did not come from his district, had not personally lobbied, so maybe without layers of feeling personally hurt and betrayed, it was easier for me to reach out and see him as I would see any LGBT person who had lived their life in the closet, torn between the pain of lying and hiding and being their true selves.

Like most LGBT people, I have known that pain. I came out as a teenager in a small town in Oregon and experienced rejection, hate speech, and bullying. Coming out and being your true self is never easy, but I know that Senator Ashburn would agree with me now that the peace it brings is worth it and that until you are out and living your truth you can never fully love and accept yourself.

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Interesting. I guess Mel White doesn't put much credibility in that "bearing false witness" part of the Bible. And as far as Mr. Ashburn goes, if he doesn't want to be held accountable for his self-hating bigotries, then he shouldn't have run for office and sold out his community on the alter of political advantage. However, he did and he has, so he richly deserves all the righteous condemnation he gets as a result.

Thanks for this thoughtful post. Compassion is a hard sell in this community, but I don't know how we can expect people to be honest if they know the result is judgment and condemnation. I'm not religious, but I'm pretty sure the Bible says something about forgiveness, too.

Rick Sutton | March 5, 2011 12:46 PM

Wow, Rebecca...the indignation is palpable.

I heard an interview with this man yesterday on Michaelangelo Signorile's OutQ XM show. I realized several minutes into the show, it was taped last year.

I don't know how the senator feels now. But the overwhelming immpression i got from the itnerview, sadly, was:

Got caught, owning up to being gay, not really strong-willed about standing up for what's right.

In fact, if I were being less-than-kind, I'd say this senator was a hypocritical closet-dwelling public-policy homophobe. All those words without a comma. Damn.

He was brand-new to being "out" on the interview, but there was no remorse in his voice. Quite the opposite. In fact, he boldly outlined a potential path to continued senatorial service, but not as a solidly-pro-GLBT legislator.

It was a confused mess of an interview, and Michaelangelo did his best to rope the guy in. He was slippery beyond words. Pathetic, actually.

I'm hoping 365 days has tempered his attitude.

No, he just listens more to that "judge not lest ye be judged" part. Sheesh.

Clearly, Mr. Ashburn judged and now he is being judged, quite accurately in my opinion. Works for me.

Rick Sutton | March 6, 2011 6:45 AM

Calm down. It was just an observation--a lot of us try to live by that rule. But when something this blatant is put in your face, it's hard not to have a reaction.

His interview was fresh after his "discovery," and I'll grant that he might've been a little shell-shocked. BUt it sounded way too much like one of those non-apology apologies, for which politicians are much too famous:

"I'm sorry if you think I did something to offend you," or words to that effect. Parsing every word carefully.

I'd be interested to now if any Cali readers have heard form this guy since his "outing."

It remains to be seen whether, now that he is out, his voting pattern changes. We might expect he will vote pro-gay on issues -- but he has voted against his own personal interests in the past, and could continue to do so in the future, claiming to be representing the views of his constituency. (Either way, I expect his days in elected office in the Bakersfield area probably are numbered.)

On the other hand, I tend to side with Mel White. A retributive attitude serves no practical purpose, and the personal growth and courage that Mr. Ashburn has shown is to his credit. If he is genuinely turning over a new leaf, then he does deserve the support and encouragement of the LGBT world.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 7, 2011 3:35 AM

Ashburn left office last year. I believe he was term limited out.

His self loathing is not something the public can forgive. We could forgive his long anti-gay legislative record but there's no reason to do that.

He's a footnote. Look him up under Quisling.

I'm a firm believer in forgive. Just not forget. He did some fucked up shit, but then everyone does.

That's part of the reason I post a lot about supposed "allies" doing terrible stuff - the differences are in degree, not quality.