Gay Issues

"Anti-Gay" Gay Senator Roy Ashurn Not So Anti-Gay After All?

| by Reason Foundation

Last week California state Sen. Roy Ashburn, a Republican who represents Bakersfield, was nabbed for driving under the influence after leaving a gay nightclub in Sacramento. In a Monday morning radio interview, he admitted he is gay. The revelation provoked accusations of hypocrisy in light of what the Daily Mail calls Ashburn's "anti-gay" record. But I'm not sure that charge fits. The strongest evidence seems to be that Ashburn voted against gay marriage, which suggests he supported at least one form of official discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But Ashburn, a divorced father of four, did not then turn around and try to marry a man. He had sex with men, which is not something he ever tried to prohibit. His resistance to gay marriage puts him in the same company as most Americans and many Democratic politicians, including the president, and it is not necessarily inconsistent with his sexual behavior. It is even less damning that he opposed "a Senate resolution declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional," since the argument that a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was itself unconstitutional always seemed shaky and was in fact rejected in a 6-to-1 ruling by the California Supreme Court (the same court that, prior to Prop. 8, had declared the statutory ban on gay marriage unconstitutional).

Likewise, Ashburn's vote against Harvey Milk Day was not necessarily "anti-gay"; nor was his opposition to "gay-rights legislation," if by that the Los Angeles Times means laws banning private discrimination against homosexuals (just as opposition to bans on private discrimination against blacks or Jews does not make a legislator racist or anti-Semitic). Ashburn says his votes comported with the views of his constituents, which suggests they may not have reflected his own true opinions. But I don't see anything in the press coverage about him railing against homosexuality, demanding the closing of gay nightclubs, or taking any other positions that were inconsistent with his own private behavior. If I'm missing some aspect of Ashburn's record  that really clinches the hypocrisy charge (a vote to ban gay adoption, for example), please let me know.