Sen. Roy Ashburn, the GOP California state senator who was arrested for driving under the influence after leaving a gay club in Sacramento, came out today on a local right-wing radio show in Bakersfield, his home district. In the interview, Ashburn said objective in voting 100 percent against gay interests was simply to reflect the wishes of “the vast majority” of his constituents.
Maybe, but more often than not “I’m just a vessel of the people” really means “I will do and say whatever it takes to keep my job.”
Ashburn, a 55 year old, divorced father of four, has served as Kern County supervisor, state assemblyman and now senator from the 18th District, one California’s most conservative precincts. His guise as a sheep in wolf’s clothing worked flawlessly until now — he was reelected in 2006 with 70 percent of the vote — but he is term-limited out this year. Earlier this year, he abandoned plans to run for the U.S. Congress. Too bad. He would have fit right in.
Roy Ashburn is a career politician who built his career on a lie. To cover his tracks, he allied himself with the homophobes in his party and became one of the oppressors of his own kind — a fact preserved in his voting record. Ashburn not only voted against every gay rights-related measure that came up, he was even one of just 13 senators, all Republicans, who voted against establishing May 22 as an annual memorial day to honor Harvey Milk, the state’s martyred gay leader.
Until the drunk-driving incident, Ashburn hosted a weekly show on KERN AM, a hate radio outlet in Bakersfield. Within hours after he resigned, the station had expunged all references to his show from its website.
Nonetheless, he went on KERN’s Inga Barks Show Monday to announce that he is gay. Here’s a rough transcript of the interview — picks up at 06:40 in Part I of the audio above:
ROY ASHBURN: Well, I’ve always believed that I could keep my personal life personal and my public life public. But through my own actions I have made my personal life public, and I owe explanation to my constituents and to the people who have been kind to me through the years.
INGA BARKS: I want to offer you the opportunity to give that explanation. Do you want me to ask you the question, or do you just want to tell people?
RB: Well. I am gay, and, uh, so — I … those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long. Uh. But I am gay. But it is, it is something that is personal. And I don’t believe — I felt with my heart — you know, being gay did not affect, would not affect how I do my job.
Again, what happened through my own actions the other night changed all that.
IB: You know, I’ve never felt it relevant about people’s private lives, about their sexual orientation. It’s never been relevant to me, but for many this has been relevant. They felt that you were contradictory if it were true because of your votes. I would love for you to respond to that.
RA: Well, I mean it’s interesting to me because I have, according to the — 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. And so as each of these individual measures came before the legislature, I cast “no” votes, usually “no” votes, because the measures were almost always about acknowledging rights or assigning identification to, to homosexual persons.
IB: Did you agree with those votes?
RA: Um, I felt my duty — and I still feel this way — is to represent my constituents… There’s never been a doubt in my mind on the position of the majority — the vast majority — of people in my district — on these different issues. So I voted as I felt I should on behalf of the people who elected me.
IB: Now you’ve been taking criticism the last couple of days from the gay groups that say it’s hypocrisy that you voted that way. I personally take an insult to that. That’s like saying every black person should vote for Obama, right?, and every woman should be pro-abortion. I don’t care for the stereotype myself, but I have to ask you, Roy, now that you have told us that you are in fact, um, gay, is it going to change the way you vote?
RA: Again, I believe firmly that my responsibility is to my constituents. On each measure that may come before me, uh, I will take a careful look at it and apply that standard — how would my constituents vote on this? How would they have me vote on this? … I don’t think anyone misunderstands what I mean.
As of Monday afternoon, there was at least one Facebook page advocating Ashburn’s recall.