playing nice

Is It Time to Leave CA Sen. Roy Ashburn Alone?

Ever since California State Sen. Roy Ashburn’s DUI arrest, we’ve learned he is a staunch opponent to gay equality, and a giant homosexual. But in the days since he blew well above a .08, he’s attempted to make amends. “I appreciate you,” he told constituents in a radio interview. “I believe that it’s an amazing responsibility and privilege to represent you in Sacramento.” It was during that same interview that Ashburn came out. “I am gay,” he said. “Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long.” So while Ashburn handles what’s arguably a private matter (misdemeanor DUI charges; coming out), and we’ve got to the bottom of his voting record (while he may be gay, he says his “votes reflect the wishes of the people in my district”), is it time to give Roy Ashburn some peace from persecution?

No.

He is still serving out his term.
Even though term limits will keep him from running again, and this scandal will keep him from a U.S. House run, he’s still keeping his California State Senate seat. Should he be pressured to resign over a misdemeanor DUI charge? Nah. He’s an asshat for driving while intoxicated, and by no means are we excusing the seriousness of the crime. People die because of drunk drivers. But he should resign because he’s a terrible human being and is voting against the interests of Californians. This is bigger than Ashburn, a gay man, voting against gay equality, the same way this situation would be bigger if Ashburn was a Latino politician voting against race-based hate crimes protections. We have a politician who is inflicting harm on his constituents, and now that he’s been exposed and showered with criticism, it’s time to bow out.

He’s unrepentant for voting against gays.
But we actually care very little about Ashburn voting against us while being gay himself. Ashburn’s own sexuality is immaterial here. He is a lawmaker who repeatedly voted against equal rights. A society must hold equality above every other tenant — above the ability to create jobs, bring back pork to the district, make schools better and streets safer. There is no functioning society unless every man and woman is considered equal, has the same say in a democracy, and enjoys the same rights and privileges as anyone else. (This is why Joe Scarborough’s argument about “obsessing” over gay marriage reveals him to be a flagrant imbecile.) Thus, there is no excuse to let someone serve in office if he does not believe in civil rights. Ashburn isn’t just a hypocrite. He is a cancer.

Just because he’s out doesn’t mean he’s our friend.
Asked whether he’s affected by criticism that he’s a hypocrite, Ashburn says, “I believe firmly that my responsibility is to my constituents. On each measure that may come before me, I will take a careful look at it, and apply that standard: How would my constituents vote on this?” That he lets what he thinks voters are thinking guide his lawmaking is fine — except when it comes to equality. Then his votes deserve common sense, for the same reason giving women the right to vote did, and allowing interracial marriage. Moreover, for the same reason that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as a Latina woman and raised since age nine by her mother, is not more qualified for her position but can be assumed to be better able to relate to the populous, so too could you expect a gay politician to understand why it’s so important for adults and children and families be equipped with one simple request: equality. But Ashburn just admitted he would fail on that account. “I voted as I felt I should on behalf of the people who elected me,” he says. Even if he should have understood, first hand, why those votes were atrocious.

Ashburn might not be a terrible human being, but he’s a plague as a lawmaker. And we don’t want him on our team.