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Are Sen. Roy Ashburn's excuses persuasive?

AshburnBy now, you've probably come across the excuses offered by Republican state Sen. Roy Ashburn, outed following his DUI arrest after reportedly leaving a gay bar in Sacramento last week, for his history of voting against gay-rights legislation. The gist is that his voting record merely reflects the wishes of his constituents, and that he thought he could separate his personal life from his political career ("it's not personal, it's political" is something of a gay-basher mantra). Here's exactly what he said, per Queerty:

My votes reflect the wishes of the people in my district. And I have always felt that my faith and allegiance was to the people there in the district, my constituents. So as each of these individual measures came before the Legislature, I cast "no" votes.... I cherish the fact that we have a remarkable system of government, and that system of government provides for representatives elected by the people to go to the legislative bodies, whether it be Washington, D.C., or Sacramento, and cast votes on behalf of the people, not my own point of view, not my own internal conflict, certainly to use my best judgment, but to vote as my constituents would have me vote. There's never been a doubt in my mind on the position of the vast majority of the people in my district, the 18th senatorial district, on these different issues. I voted as I felt I should on behalf of the people who elected me.

An obvious question for Ashburn is whether he thinks his district would have sent him to Sacramento had he been honest about his sexual orientation, but that's beside the point. Ashburn essentially suggests  that it isn't the role of legislators to lead. As far as same-sex marriage is concerned, Ashburn's voting record seems in line with the public opinion of his district, which includes Bakersfield. But marriage hasn't been the only front in the battle over the last few years to ensure equal protection for gay men and women. Ashburn opposed bills to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation at workplaces, in housing decisions and so on. As noted by former Times reporter Robert Salladay at California Watch, Ashburn's voting record may actually land much further right of the people who elected him.

Ashburn's other justification -- that he felt his private and political lives could remain separate -- should ring familiar to those of us who feel strongly about equality for gay men and women. I've always seen the debate over marriage equality as proving precisely the opposite: that the political and the personal are deeply intertwined. Ashburn may have been able to separate the two by keeping his sexual orientation a secret, but the out-of-the closet Californians whose personal lives could have been damaged by Ashburn's votes didn't have that luxury.

I'll leave the rest of the debate to you: Was Ashburn wrong to vote against the interest of gay Californians such as himself, or is he right that legislators ought to put their own convictions aside and only represent their constituents' views? The Times' editorial board will weigh in on the Ashburn affair Wednesday; in the meantime, share your views in the comments field below.

-- Paul Thornton

Photo: Sen. Roy Ashburn at the Capitol building in Sacramento on Monday.

Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (11)

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He was very wrong to do that


>Was Ashburn wrong to vote against the interest of gay Californians such as himself, or is he right that legislators ought to put their own convictions aside and only represent their constituents' views?

I think it's a false construct built inside of a dark, fearful closet. I actually believe that Ashburn is merely still rationalizing his anti-gay votes as something other than a reflection of his own internal homophobia and his attempts to cast off any scent of his homosexuality.

The idea that he should vote against his own convictions and his own civil rights would be laughable if it weren't so sad. On second thought, those two aren't mutually exclusive.


I have to disagree with Senator Ashburn's justification. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

From my point of view, that's exactly what he did. Rather than speaking up for what is right, it's easier to just check the latest poll and vote however the majority wishes. However he seems to be forgetting that he took an oath to represent ALL of his constituents, including those brave gay and lesbian citizens living in Kern County.

We live in a nation where our politicians are more concerned with getting re-elected than taking care of the responsibilities of a representational form of government regardless their political affiliation or spectrum. Whatever happened to the elected official that was willing to risk their career to do what is right? My history book is full of them, my newspaper, not so much.

Ed Stone

The people of Roy Ashburn's district elected someone who they thought represented their values -- not someone who merely parroted those values and lived other values. Sen. Ashburn is a fraud. He pretended to be someone he is not.

Sen. Ashburn is also a fraud for denying his own truth -- he is a gay man who voted against the rights of other gay men and women, protecting his own rights by pretending to be something his is not.

I do not condemn him for struggling with his sexual orientation, nor for finally publicly coming out. I sympathize with the former and admire the latter. This does not change the facts of his prior deceit.

mark donnelly

Ashburn is a pig, a coward and a hypocrite. End of story.


Well, God bless us, finally, that one of our State Representatives gets that he was voted in to represent the will of the people he represents and not his personal proclivities!

"Following the twisted logic of the gay lobby, if we personally engage in theft, prostitution, adultery, and practices that abuse the elderly, then we should be expected to support laws that promote same.... utter rubbish!"


Malcolm: "Following the twisted logic of the gay lobby, if we personally engage in theft, prostitution, adultery, and practices that abuse the elderly, then we should be expected to support laws that promote same.... "
Well, thanks for equating my decades-long relationship with lifting someone's iPod. Pathetic.

As for the rest: if you're a moralizing, antigay rightwinger who hires hookers, you're David Vitter. If you're a family-values politician who cheats on his wife, you're Mark Sanford...

We gays are quite familiar with the rationalizations of self-loathing closet cases, thank you very mnuch. Perhaps you can explain how Ted Haggard was "serving his constituents" when he did speed with hustlers?

And have you stopped beating YOUR mother?


He was wrong - because what he voted for was wrong. It would have been just as wrong to vote against basic civil rights, equality, tolerance, and freedom if he actually had been the straight man he was pretending to be. This doesn't change that.

Being a closeted gay man who not only kept his personal life private, but felt the need to construct an entire false persona to keep it secret, and who felt the need to go above and beyond privacy into hosting anti-gay rallies and championing anti-gay legislation just adds a level of hypocrisy and something deeply pathetic to the narrow intolerance that always underlies anti-gay attacks.

Regan DuCasse

He was very wrong.

The interests of gay people are valid, because these are quality of life RIGHTS that ALL OTHER citizens have. Gay folks are not excluded from paying taxes and other responsibilities as citizens. Had Ashburn been a secret Jew, and voted for policies that were unjust and kept Jews forever in separate and unequal standards of living, why wouldn't Jews or any other constituent be also betrayed?
The power of his office would have made a POSITIVE difference in the lives of a significant minority and hurt no others in the process. He's a coward and there is no excuse for him. None.


I can appreciate that an elected official should represent the views of his district, but it would seem the official's views should align with the district. I know his district is predomininantly conservative, I get that.

But that's the disconnect for me - how can you be gay as Ashburn is and still vote against your own self interests? He had to have been lying to himself the entire time and I understand that too. I was in the closet, married, with kids. It's hard to lead a double life. But he needs to be honest with everyone involved - he can't really believe what he's saying, can he?


Sorry...he's a hypocrite and his excuse doesn't work when he voted to increase taxes when his constituents not only disagreed with that but were vocally angry about him doing so. Unfortunately, living in a closet means living a lie-to others as well as yourself. Eventually, your whole life becomes a lie and you start believing it. He is a hypocrite and a liar as well as reckless for his DUI. He is just another sick narcissist.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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