Anti-Gay Senator Ashburn got Outed, Apologized, Promises to Change. For Us. Really.

ASHBURN:

Something just happened that some people never see in their lifetimes: a politician admitted he was wrong, apologized, and committed himself to righting the issue. Roy Ashburn, who had a strong anti-gay voting record and who was arrested on a DUI driving home from a gay nightclub with an unidentified man, originally insisted that he stood by his voting record even after being outed because it was “his duty to his constituents.” But it appears he’s changed his mind:

”My practice in my entire political career when it came to gay issues was to prevent any kind of spotlight from being shined my way, because I was in hiding. So casting any kind of vote might, could in some way, lead to my secret being revealed…. That was terrifying to me. It was paralyzing. So I cast some votes that have denied gay people of their basic, equal treatment under the law, and I’m not proud of it. I’m not going to do that again.”

And it appears he might be serious: this week he asked his fellow senators to support Congress’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I hate to be premature, but this could be really important. Not just because we’d have one more senator who will generally vote our way, but because Ashburn represents what an historic transitional moment we’re in. This is a person who lived in secrecy for almost his entire life; in his own words he was “terrified” and “paralyzed” by the threat of what would happen if anyone knew he was gay.

This isn’t new; this has been the story of untold numbers of people over the years, and more politicians than we’ll ever know. But Ashburn’s about-face proves that we’ve moved on from that time in some small, incremental way; that while people are still scared and silent, and understandably so, there is legitimately another option. Instead of resigning or being forced out of the Senate in disgrace or even jailed, Ashburn has the opportunity to just change his mind. We live in a world now where that option exists. It’s not an easy choice, to take a deep breath and straighten your tie and decide that you’ll just start being braver than you ever thought you were capable of, but it’s there. And it’s something to keep in mind during the upcoming DADT struggle as well – that while it’s harder than it should be and completely unfair, it’s also the first time that this has ever been a real possibility for us, and that’s something to be proud of. (@metroweekly)

DADT:

It’s Memorial Day, and our thoughts turn to those servicemen and women who have lived and died in service for our country. Autumn at Pam’s House Blend has a great post on the indignity of dying in the closet while serving in the military. As a transgender identified veteran, I realize that if I’d have died in service to my country when I was active duty servicemember, my unacknowledged transgender identity would have died with me. Considering how important my transgender identity — my LGBT community identity — is to me now, that’s a fairly weighty thought. (@pamshouseblend)

Also, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has videotaped a message to the troops regarding the latest steps on DADT’s repeal, urging them not to “become distracted.” Nice to know that our government maintains very high expectations for the people whose lives it risks every day. (@joemygod)

BALDWIN:

Tammy Baldwin, out lesbian in Congress, has announced that she’s splitting with her partner of 15 years. (@queerty)

SENATE:

The US Senate has confirmed out lesbian Laura Duffy as US Attorney for the Southern District of California in San Diego. (@theadvocate)

CHENEY:

Mary Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is an out lesbian. But she’s supporting a Republican candidate in Florida, Bill McCollum, who opposes same-sex adoption. The Bilerico Project wonders, understandably, what the children of Cheney and her partner think about this. (@thebilericoproject)

GAY TRAVEL:

Expedia.com and the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association are partnering to create a new travel site dedicated to gay and lesbian customers. The service will point travelers towards gay-friendly travel destinations both in the US and internationally; it will also list LGBT events and festivals. (@southfloridagaynews)

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1080 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. I hope more people follow in Ashburn’s footsteps! I just hate that politicians feel they have to vote against LGBT legislation so they don’t “seem gay”. I just want the world to be tolerant! That’s all!

  2. I imagine a lot of people are going to be irritated that Ashburn stood by his voting record for so long after his outing, but my heart goes out to the man, and I am glad that he issued that follow-up statement. To me, it makes sense that someone who was deeply closeted in such a position where he feared his career hinged on keeping that secret, would try to do some major, panicked backtracking after being unceremoniously outed. The important thing is that it seems he’s come around now and figured out where his morals lie.

    I know, I know, the proof is in the pudding, but I am hopeful.

    Also, what the hell, Mary Cheney? I really want to hear her reasoning here.

  3. ‘Instead of resigning or being forced out of the Senate in disgrace or even jailed, Ashburn has the opportunity to just change his mind.’
    this is pretty great, because the parallel story to this in australia (i think it was mentioned on autostraddle briefly/side-story like) is the MP david campbell who was seen driving in his government issued car to a gay sex club. he didn’t do anything illegal, no DUI or anything but since the outing (oh ha ha) he resigned and has not been seen or heard from publicly since. so i can only presume that he thinks we can’t deal with it, which is sad!

    • That David Campbell thing was wierd eh. I thought he had been caught doing something illegal (exclusive of the discovery of him going to sex clubs) but nope, he just likes the dudes. There seems to be a strong homophobic sentiment in some parts of Aussie society (I understand fundy Christian churches are really prevalent over there? That probably doesn’t help) which holds politicians back from voting with their conscience, and from being themselves. He probably quit because he thought that’s what the minority wanted.

        • I’m really glad that 7 have been shown to have pushed the issue way too far. Not the type of journalism to be proud of at all. They got a bit of egg on the face when a)the rules around car usage showed he was allowed to his his car as he wanted and b)He was in fairly constant contact with his people about the accident and aftermath. The Opposition were just doing what they do best (trying to discredit the other side) but in the end there was really no story in it.

  4. I hate Mary Cheney and I FUCKING HATE when I really, really, really want to go someplace that hates my butch wife and I, because you know what, bigot travel destinations?! I really, really, really want to make out with my wife on our vacations way more than I want to visit you. So there. Eat a bag of dicks. YOUR LOSS.

  5. i feel like there’s this hypothetical we’re always reaching for — this fantasy world, where when someone’s scandal is revealed — whether it be that they’re gay, or they smoked pot in college but did not inhale, or once watched porn on the internet, or took some sexy pictures for a boyfriend once — that a response exists to those exposures besides just more and more denial, or reparations.

    of course, i’m a a strong believer that if your own personal sexuality issues are impacting your political choices, you are not fit for office and therefore should seek a different career path. however, i find this case really encouraging. i hope ashburn is sign of change to come, and maybe somewhere out there in some conservative republican town that feels betrayed now by Ashburn’s homosexuality or political about-face, there’s a 12-year-old kid who thinks; if that guy is ok with who he is, maybe i can be ok with who i am one day too. I never thought I’d applaud a closeted conservative lying republican senator for their choices in my life, but even these little tiny bits of something different — like how he actually came out with it when caught, rather than hiding it (much like Lance Bass and Neil Patrick Harris did because they’d rather control the info than have someone else leak it), that’s good. That’s something.

    • MTE. In the cause of visibility, a conservative republican being (eventually) open and honest is surprising and refreshing and I fully believe will be good thing in the long run. However, most of me is wondering what the hell this guy was doing in this career in the first place. I would like to think, in my own naive little way, that the point of going into politics would be because you wanted to MAKE THINGS BETTER and I can

  6. I’m not entirely sure, but isn’t Roy Ashburn’s term almost over? I doubt he’d ever get elected again, especially in uber conservative Kern County.

  7. Following on from the points raised in the cookie thread, I am commenting though I have nothing to contribute but I really enjoyed this and brought new things to my attention. Thanks

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