Anti-Gay Calif. Politician Cited for DUI--After Leaving Gay Bar

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday March 4, 2010

An anti-gay California state senator was placed under arrest for drunk driving after leaving a gay bar. A male passenger was in the vehicle along with the lawmaker was not arrested, reported Sacramento CBS affiliate Channel 13.

State Sen. Roy Ashburn was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol at about 2:00 a.m. on March 3 when his state-issued vehicle was observed being driven erratically. The driver, identified as Ashburn, was taken in and charged for driving under the influence. Channel 13 reported that unidentified sources said the senator had been at Faces, a popular gay nightspot, prior to his arrest.

In a March 4 article, the online news site Talking Points Memo characterized Ashburn, who is married and has four children, as "a fierce opponent of gay rights" who had led anti-marriage equality rallies.

Ashburn issued a contrite apology, stating, "I am deeply sorry for my actions and offer no excuse for my poor judgment. I accept complete responsibility for my conduct and am prepared to accept the consequences for what I did."

Ashburn will not be able to drive for a month and the vehicle he was in at the time of his arrest has been impounded, reported online news site on March 3. If the state senator receives the same penalties as do others arrested for drunk driving, the article said, Ashburn could face three years of probation, fines of up to $1,000, attendance at a "DUI offender program," and two days' jail time.

It is uncertain how the arrest--or his reported presence at a gay bar--will affect Ashburn's prospects for re-election. He already faces a fellow Republican for in the upcoming race for the seat he occupies in the state senate.

Anti-gay lawmakers who are alleged to engage in sexual activity with members of their own gender have attracted significant media attention in recent years. Among the high-profile cases in lawmakers with records of voting against gay equality measures is the arrest of former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who was charged with soliciting another man for sex in an airport restroom, and a 2006 scandal involving Republican Sen. Mark Foley, who allegedly exchanged sexually charged text messages with teenaged male pages and young men who had formerly been pages. A 2009 documentary titled Outrage noted that rumors have long swirled around Florida governor Charlie Crist, who supported a successful ballot initiative to amend the state's constitution in a way that bars marriage equality for gay and lesbian families. The film also traced the careers of other anti-gay politicians rumored to be closeted gays themselves, such as Republican Congressman David Drier, a California representative.

In California, marriage equality was legal for six months in 2008, until voters narrowly approved Proposition 8, which rescinded marriage rights for gays, in November of that year.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.