Kevin And Don Respond To Being Self Loathing

Looking back at their journey from the Stonewall Democratic Club to Log Cabin Republicans, they claim it was one that was actually started by the democrats. After being told that marriage as not a priority on the agenda in 1995, they became disillusioned with the DEMS. For a decade they felt like they did not belong until they met the republicans of the Log Cabin Republican Club and discovered they too shared a dream of marriage equality. This blog is now a digital time capsule of their time as Republicans and moderated by a friend and supporter.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Senator Ashburn SWITCHING SIDES on Gay Rights?

Outed senator easing stance against gay rights
Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

(06-01) 04:00 PDT Sacramento - --

State Sen. Roy Ashburn has begun taking some tentative steps toward backing gay rights, a little less than three months after the Bakersfield Republican was outed after a drunken driving arrest near the Capitol.

He vowed at the time to continue his staunch opposition to the expansion of gay rights - he has one of the strongest anti-gay records of any lawmaker - saying that is how his constituents would have him vote.

But since then, Ashburn has held several meetings at the Capitol with a major gay rights organization that he previously avoided, and on Thursday made an unusually personal speech that showed he is re-evaluating his thinking on some issues. Senate colleagues say he seems happier.

"I would not have been speaking on measures dealing with sexual orientation - ever - prior to the events that have transpired in my life over the last three months," Ashburn said on the Senate floor, surprising some of his colleagues. "However, I am no longer willing or able to remain silent on issues that affect sexual orientation (and) the rights of individuals. So, I am doing something that is quite different and foreign to me and is highly emotional."

Ashburn was arrested March 3 on suspicion of drunken driving after reportedly spending the evening at a Sacramento gay club, and pleaded no contest to the charge in April. Several days after he was arrested, he confirmed that he was gay during a radio interview, during which he also pledged to continue his voting record against gay rights.

Opposing 'don't ask'
But on Thursday, Ashburn argued for a resolution calling on Congress to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays and lesbians serving in the military, voting for the measure that he had opposed twice, most recently last year.

"The current policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' is clearly out of date and discriminatory," he said. "I rise in support of this resolution because it calls upon our nation's best instincts and seeks to correct a basic discrimination that is hurtful to people and our country."

But Ashburn voted against another measure that would state explicitly in law that people opposed to performing marriages for same-sex couples for religious reasons would not be forced to do so, and that religious organizations would not lose their tax-exempt status if they did not hold such marriages.

Ashburn said he liked that idea, but the bill, which passed without his support, also inserts the word "civil" before references to marriage in state code.

He called it "troublesome" and noted the vote on Proposition 8 last year, the legal challenges to that proposition that outlawed same-sex marriage and the likelihood that the issue would return to the ballot in future years. He said passing the bill would create "a confusing, untenable situation," though he added that it was "with great difficulty" that he urged the Senate to reject the bill.

In 2005, he helped lead a rally in Bakersfield opposing same-sex marriage, but last week he said "gay marriage is a very complicated issue."

The changes, though minor, have caught the attention of advocates for gay rights.

"Just like everyone else, we were surprised to see these statements come out of his mouth," said Charles Moran, spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP organization.

Changing policy views
Ashburn, a divorced father of four, is the highest-ranking openly gay Republican in California, and while Log Cabin officials have yet to meet with him, Moran said his speech may be the impetus for that.

"Here is somebody who is open and out of the closet and has truly changed their policy position," Moran said, though he added that while gay people have wide-ranging views on marriage, "I still think he may have a long way to go and that's what was demonstrated in his marriage vote."

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the author of the marriage legislation, said he did not understand Ashburn's logic in voting against the bill.

Leno, who is gay, said he hopes Ashburn's being out during his remaining few months in office "will be an opportunity for his leadership not only in his district but also in his caucus to bring some rational thinking and light to the subject of LGBT civil rights." Ashburn is termed out of office at the end of this year.

Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, wrote the "don't ask, don't tell" resolution, and said she thinks Ashburn's openness will spur change in the Republican caucus. Kehoe, who is a lesbian, said Ashburn has told her he feels like a weight has been lifted off him and that he is even contemplating attending the San Diego gay pride event in July.

Gay rights group
Ashburn also has held several meetings with Equality California, the state's largest gay rights group, in the past few months. Ashburn indicated he was "open to learning more about legislation and considering our bills on their merits," said Vaishalee Raja, spokeswoman for Equality California.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has been friends with Ashburn for years. The relationship started over a mutual interest in advocating for mental health services, and since Ashburn publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation, Yee said his friend and colleague is more relaxed and seems happier.

"I think whenever you're truthful with yourself, that's a good thing," said Yee, who is straight. "The coming out process is an enlightening process, so I think he's coming to terms with his sexual orientation and that's what you're seeing now."

Ashburn has also been publicly talking about the changes in his life, though he was unavailable to be interviewed for this article. He told a columnist at the Bakersfield Californian that he had stopped drinking alcohol and that he was sorry for many of his votes against gay rights legislation.

He also said he was reassessing much of his life. "I'm taking care of a lot of old baggage," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

E-mail Wyatt Buchanan at wbuchanan@sfchronicle.com

This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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