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Ashburn Talks Gay Rights on Cal. Senate Floor

Ashburn Talks Gay Rights on Cal. Senate Floor

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California state Sen. Roy Ashburn broke his silence about being gay in remarks to colleagues Thursday and cast two votes on separate gay rights bills.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Ashburn was the only Republican senator to vote in support of allowing openly gay people to serve in the military, but he also voted against a bill that could remove a political obstacle to proposals to legalize same-sex marriage."

In terms of the bill regarding marriages, the Times reports, "Ashburn said he supported the portion of the legislation that made it clear clergy members would face no sanctions, including the loss of tax-exempt status for their churches, if they refused to perform gay marriages. But he said it was 'troublesome' that the bill also described marriages as 'civil' unions. Proposition 8, approved by voters, gave a definition of marriage, and Ashburn worried the new definition in the bill could muddy the water and lead to new lawsuits on the issue."

Ashburn, who came out in March after a drunk driving arrest the night he allegedly left a gay nightclub, explained his votes to colleagues on the senate floor.

"I would not have been speaking on a measure dealing with sexual orientation ever prior to the events that have transpired in my life over the last three months,'' said Ashburn, according to the Los Angeles Times. "However, I am no longer willing or able to remain silent on issues that affect sexual orientation and the rights of individuals. And so I am doing something that is quite different and foreign to me, and it's highly emotional.''

Ashburn, who represents Bakersfield, elaborated on his position in an interview with KCRA-TV.

"I was in hiding, and so casting any kind of vote might, could in some way lead to my secret being revealed," he said. "That was terrifying to me. It was paralyzing. And so I cast some votes that have denied gay people of their basic equal treatment under the law. And I'm not proud of that. I'm not going to do that again," he said.

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