News of the DUI arrest of an anti-gay state senator who had allegedly just left a popular Sacramento gay bar with a younger man has spread across the globe faster than a California wildfire moves.
The scandalous news had become the fodder of jokes on late-night television talk shows, the topic of endless speculation by bloggers and the fascination of the foreign press.
And it has opened a Pandora’s box on a number of issues.
Roy Ashburn – a powerful Republican from Bakersfield who is termed-out in his eighth and final year in the Senate and has served six years in the Assembly – has a flawless record of voting against every single LGBT bill during his long tenure in office. He has raised countless wads of campaign cash by cuddling up to the right wing of the Republican Party and has spewed out hateful anti-gay rhetoric to his conservative constituents, all in the name of getting re-elected.
In the hours that followed Ashburn’s arrest just after 2 a.m. Wednesday, speculation boiled over in the media and in cyberspace that there has been a really smelly cover-up regarding Ashburn’s sexual orientation that has been going on for months, if not years.
The notorious senator who fought against gay marriage equality and Harvey Milk Day and who railed against the LGBT community as part of his “Traditional Family Values” campaign is suddenly caught up in a swirl of accusations of being a closet queen. Not that Ashburn has come clean yet _ and we won’t find out soon enough because the outspoken senator has lost his golden tongue and gone into seclusion.
But, all of the sudden, everybody has come out of the closet to “out” Ashburn.
What did Mayor Cabaldon know?
West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who declared that he was gay during his State of the City dinner in 2006, told TV newscasters in Sacramento this week that he had known Ashburn’s secret for some time. Cabaldon claims he tried to out Ashburn about six months ago on his Facebook page with this posting:
“It wouldn’t bother me so bad to see Roy Ashburn at Badlands (a gay bar) with a boy if he didn’t have such a bad voting record on gay rights.”
Nobody apparently noticed the posting – until now.
This week, Cabaldon said he kept seeing Ashburn out at gay clubs in Sacramento for some time. The 55-year-old Ashburn, by the way, is a divorced father of four and grandfather of two.
What did the Californian know?
The Bakersfield Californian, the largest newspaper in Ashburn’s district, is now trying to justify why it previously questioned Ashburn’s sexual orientation, got the usual denials, and decided that the information was not relevant to readers. Hum, it’s not relevant when a powerful political figure who consistently votes against gay rights is perhaps gay? Oh, wait, I must not be thinking like a heterosexual would.
Christine Bedell, the paper’s government editor, is dancing on the hot coals. This is what she wrote in a piece published Thursday online:
“The Californian has asked Ashburn about his sexual orientation in the past. He has either questioned the relevance of the issue or dodged it altogether. The newspaper did not report the comments at the time, also deciding it was not relevant.”
The Californian should be embarrassed. The issue is indeed relevant because an anti-gay politician who frequents gay bars must be either gay or extremely gay friendly – and if he faithfully votes against LGBT issues, then he surely must be the biggest hypocrite in the Senate.
What did Brian Leubitz know?
Brian Leubitz, whose work appears online at Calitics, now boasts that he has, on two occasions, received an e-mail saying that Ashburn was seen at a gay bar. Of course Leubitz only reports that information on Thursday, the day after the DUI bust.
Speculation has also turned to the identity of the younger man who was the passenger in the state-owned Chevrolet Tahoe that Ashburn was driving. The California Highway Patrol did not detain the younger man, and CHP officers have not revealed his identity.
But some of the cyber sleuths are claiming that the passenger was a Latino man from San Jose who Ashburn met at Faces during the popular Latin Night on Tuesdays. SDGLN cannot confirm those rumors, but if true, it would only add fuel to the fire over Ashburn’s voting record that consistently is against immigrant rights. Oh, the irony. He hates the immigrants, but apparently he loves their boys.
Comments by a GOP activist
State GOP activist Jon Fleischman, who runs the conservative Flash Report Web site, told the Sacramento Bee that Ashburn’s career in politics was already damaged because he angered GOP loyalists by voting for a tax increase last year.
“That puts you in a coffin,” Fleischman said. If Ashburn is gay, he said, “it’s like hammering nails into it.”