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Conservative Hall of Shame: 8 Anti-Gay Politicians and Demagogues Who Got Caught Having Gay Sex

The state senator arrested leaving a gay club joined a long and illustrious tradition of double-talking, double-living conservative figures.

“I'm gay. Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long,” said Republican Roy Ashburn, breaking the week of silence following his arrest in an interview Monday with conservative KERN (AM1180) talk radio host Inga Barks. Ashburn had hosted a talk radio show at the same station. KERN deleted his DJ page and his show's description page from their radio station's website immediately following Ashburn's arrest.

At 2 AM, March 3 2010, the California state senator was arrested for DUI. Ashburn, a divorced father of four, is well known for his outspoken anti-gay politics. He issued a standard politician's apology following his arrest:

“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. I am also truly sorry for the impact this incident will have on those who support and trust me – my family, my constituents, my friends, and my colleagues in the Senate.”

This brief disclaimer doesn't specify which actions the senator considers “poor judgment.” Driving drunk? Having one too many $1 well drinks at the Miss Latina Drag Queen Beauty Pageant? Taking a state-owned vehicle for personal business? Being caught with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit and an unidentified man in the passenger seat? (The Queer blog Boy Culture claims Ashburn's passenger was an openly gay 29-year-old Latino who was staying at the Hyatt near where the senator's weaving SUV was stopped.)

When Ashburn was arrested after leaving the gay nightclub FACES, the California state senator joined a long and illustrious tradition of double-talking, double-living conservatives who made their reputations by being down on homosexuality publicly, only to lose them by going down on homosexuals privately.

State Sen. Roy Ashburn's secret life was apparently not a well-kept secret. Queer bloggers and openly gay West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon report seeing Ashburn regularly at gay bars. “I don't think it's a scandal for an elected official to be gay,” Cabaldon said. “But if you're going to vote against every piece of hate-crimes legislation, that's hypocritical.”

Even the local media knew. As early as 2004, reporters asked “Are you gay?”

Ashburn responded: “Why would that be anyone's business? I think there are certain subjects that are simply not relevant and this is one of them. It has no bearing on the job I do.”

The Bakersfield Californian, Ashburn's hometown paper, chose not to print this ambiguous response. Following their tradition of protecting the senator's privacy (and enabling his hypocrisy), newspapers in Ashburn's constituency initially reported on the DUI but omitted any reference to the gay controversy – although by that point, Ashburn's sexuality and duplicity had been discussed on television and across the blogosphere, and was the subject of an entire monologue by comedian Craig Ferguson.

The CBS affiliate in Sacramento that broke the original story tried doggedly to get a statement from Sen. Ashburn. When they managed to catch him outside the house, he had “no comment.”

Oh, Roy, why couldn't you have been that tongue-tied when talking about civil rights and protections for gay families?

Equality California, a gay rights group, gave Ashburn a zero percent rating for his 2009 voting record. Equality California director Geoff Kors said: “He has voted against every LGBT rights bill that's been introduced in California since he's been in the office.”

Ashburn voted against creating a day to honor slain gay activist Harvey Milk, a measure to add material on gay Americans who had contributed to the development of California or the United States, expanding anti-discrimination laws to include sexual discrimination, expanding mental health services for gay youths, recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages, and measures to protect gay prisoners from violence. Not satisfied with limiting marriage, Ashburn's Traditional Values Coalition also attempted to ban domestic partnerships.

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