Are Sen. Roy Ashburn's excuses persuasive?
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