Over the years at the Capitol, you meet just about everyone your boss works with and Senator Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, was no exception.
In my limited contact with him, I found him charming, professional and a pretty fun individual. His voting record reflected a man who valued conservative ideals and certainly, that’s not a surprise in a state as polarized politically as California. But I wonder at the shock with which folks view his recent admission to being gay – though not of his own desires – following a late-night appearance at a gay bar and subsequent DUI. (Honestly, the DUI worried me more.)
Now, of course, I’m torn on the matter. I respect his privacy and understand his fears to publicly discuss his sexual orientation when he’s a Republican. But I also know two “out” Republicans in political office in San Diego. However, it must be stated that in a partisan office – Senator Ashburn would be expected by his fellow caucus members to vote certain ways based on party strategy. And while gay-rights activists admonish him for voting against bills they favored, he may not have done so – even were he out.
This topic also brings up the issue of sexual orientation and politics. Does one preclude expectations to believe in certain ideals? Does Senator Ashburn now have to say he believes and supports gay marriage? Perhaps he does believe in gay marriage and maybe he doesn’t, but now the pressure will be on for this and so many other issues from both sides of the aisle.
I do not envy his position, but I wish him and his family well during a trying time both politically and personally. As a friend of several gays who have come out over the years, I could not imagine the added pressure of something so personal being so public. And in his profession, it could be the end of his career should he not play his hand stealthily.