The Coming Out of Senator Ashburn
By: Dan Waterhouse
Bakersfield state senator Roy Ashburn, who has a deplorable voting record on queer issues, thought he could keep his public life public and his personal life personal. Because of a night out on the town, what happened in Sacramento didn’t stay there.
Sen. Ashburn, the keynote speaker at then-Fresno Mayor Alan Autry’s pro-Proposition 8 rally in late October 2008, visited Latino Night at Faces in downtown Sacramento, apparently picked up a date and then was stopped by California Highway Patrol officers after they saw him driving his state car erratically shortly after he left the well-known queer nightclub early Wednesday, March 3.
A few days later, he appeared on the Inga Bark’s radio show in Bakersfield and revealed he’s queer. And, two days after his radio revelation, Ashburn was seen by a Sacramento Bee political columnist having an “relaxed” and “affectionate” dinner with a male companion at a Sactown nightspot.
CHP officer R. Gomez said troopers saw Ashburn repeatedly apply his car’s brakes for no apparent reason, and then straddle the striping between two lanes as he drove on L Street near 15th Street. An enforcement stop was made, and it was determined Ashburn was driving under the influence of alcohol. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said Ashburn had a blood alcohol level of 0.14%, almost twice the legal limit of 0.08%.
The drunk driving arrest was big news. Ashburn is a big player in Republican politics in Sacramento. Then it became bigger news when Sacramento television station CBS-13 reported the queer nightclub angle, citing anonymous sources, saying Ashburn was not alone when he was stopped. The manager of Faces told the Sacramento media she had not seen Ashburn inside the club, saying that because it was Latino Night, a white guy would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb.
Website Boy Culture reported Ashburn’s mystery passenger was an openly gay 29-year-old San Jose Latino (who looks several years younger) who was visiting Sacramento for work and who did not know who Ashburn was. According to Boy Culture, Ashburn’s companion was staying at the Hyatt, which is near Faces.
Boy Culture adds, “It’s tempting to wonder whether the Republican stalwart’s more shameful secret was ‘the love that dare not speak its name’ or his attraction to Latinos despite his staunchly anti-immigration votes.
“A more damning piece of information is that Ashburn apparently identified himself as a senator at the time he was pulled over, which would lead one to believe he hoped to use the prestige of his office to avert an arrest.
“How Larry Craig can you get?”
Boy Culture says the mystery passenger hasn’t come forward, and he deleted some “indiscreet” postings from his Facebook page after the Web site e-mailed him for comment.
Also turns out there’ve been rumors since at least 2004 whether Ashburn was in the closet. The Bakersfield Californian reported that one of its columnists questioned Ashburn last summer after the paper learned there were plans to “out” him in a Sacramento queer publication. The columnist called Ashburn and asked him point blank: “are you gay?”
Columnist Lois Henry said his reply was “why would that be anyone’s business? Including The Californian’s? I think there are certain subjects that are simply not relevant and this is one of them. It has no bearing on the job I do.”
Henry added she listed several examples of when a politician’s sexual orientation, or even just their sexual activity—straight or gay—would be relevant. If he “were a staunch anti-gay activist but was secretly gay, she said, that would be a legitimate concern to his constituents.”
Ashburn agreed but denied he had been such an activist. Henry said she pointed out he had voted conservatively on gay issues throughout his career. Yes, he replied according to Henry, but he’d done the same on almost all social issues. He said he represents a conservative district and votes as his constituents want him to.
He admitted that he pulled out of the race against Representative Jim Costa because of his sexual orientation.
Sacramento’s Capitol Weekly was told Ashburn was a regular at Sacramento gay bars for at least two years. Some said Ashburn became more brazen about it after the Bakersfield Californian laid off its longtime Sacramento bureau chief Vic Pollard in 2007. Pollard had a reputation for dealing aggressively with politicians and breaking major stories about them.
His erstwhile allies among the “family values conservatives” rapidly distanced themselves from him after his announcement. Many expressed dismay over his “choice” and hoped he would be “cured” of his queerness.
“Christianist” Prof In Hot Water At Fresno City College
The Fresno City College administration has upheld substantial portions of grievances filed by several students against a health science professor. According to campus authorities, Dr. Bradley Lopez “engaged in conduct that could result in the creation of a hostile learning environment by unreasonably interfering with students’ learning by making insulting comments directed at homosexuals.”
In a March 8, 2010, letter, Christopher Villa, vice president of student services, says that Lopez violated several rules, including Administrative Rule 3430 which prohibits making “insulting comments directed at a group based on sexual orientation,” engaging in indoctrination and presenting irrelevant material. Villa adds, “Dr. Lopez further violated District policy by teaching religious material.” The letter says that Dr. Lopez’s teaching from the Bible or using the Bible in class exposes the school “to legal threat for violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It could also jeopardize the ability of the students to transfer their course credit to other institutions.”
The letter acknowledges that some of Dr. Lopez’s statements in his classes were, indeed, protected under the State Center Community College District’s academic freedom policy. The letter emphasizes that “instructors are entitled to interpret personal findings and to communicate their conclusions, even when at variance with those of other persons.” However, Villa says, “nothing in the district’s academic freedom policy or any other controlling law or policy permits instructors to engage in indoctrination, the presentation of irrelevant subject matter, or the creation of a hostile learning environment for students.”
Villa said that the college will take “appropriate actions to address the violations of policy and regulations.”
The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the FCC in February demanding that the school ensure that all its health science classes teach unbiased and medically accurate information. According to several FCC students, lectures by Professor Bradley Lopez, who teaches a general education health class, often present religiously based and anti-gay views as “science” or “fact.” Dr. Lopez denies ever doing anything of the sort. His attorney, Charles Magill of Fresno, says Dr. Lopez’s academic freedom is being stepped on. Magill was hired by the Pacific Justice Institute to represent
However, Dr. Karen Bell, a Fresno State philosophy professor who studies hate speech issues, says this is a case of incompetence, not academic freedom infringed. She adds that academic freedom or constitutionally protected freedom of speech does not apply to “objectively false statements.”
Last November, students Jacqui Mahaffey and Jay Matthew filed grievances alleging that Dr. Lopez presented “inaccurate and biased material” and that he was “teaching religious doctrine” in class. According to the ACLU, at least one FCC official told Matthew that other complaints about Dr. Lopez had been registered over the years. The official indicated that there was an ongoing investigation by college administrators into Dr. Lopez’s teaching. When Dr. Lopez responded in mid-December to the grievances, he said he disagreed with the concept of separation of church and state and claimed he “provides students with only ‘measured, scientific information in current issues in health.’”
The ACLU letter includes several examples of Professor Lopez teaching sectarian views and personal bias as “fact.” In recent lectures, Professor Lopez presented a slide listing “homosexual facts,” including that homosexuality is a “biological misapplication of human sexuality” and said that the “recommended treatment” is “psychological counseling” or “hormone supplements.” He also represented LGBT people as a burden on and/or threat to society, claiming, for example, that anything but a heterosexual union provides a “one-sided foundation for raising children.”
Background research on Dr. Lopez revealed that he is affiliated with the Peoples Church ministry “Christ’s Warriors.” Channel 30 Action News reported in February that Dr. Lopez spoke about the grievances in a talk at Peoples Church, saying people were “out to string me up” for his religious beliefs.
A third student, Ken Belville, sent a letter on February 11 to FCC President Dr. Cynthia Azari saying that Dr. Lopez “said homosexuals are an abomination…coarsely joked about ‘faggots’…. ‘Personally, I think homosexuality is a sin!’” According to Belville, Dr. Lopez claimed the elements of DNA “are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Belville added that “many days I left his class feeling hurt, intimidated, and angry. I often would be unable to study for an hour or two because I could not think of anything but his unkind, untrue, and hurtful statements. Long into the evening, I would still be smarting from the sense that I was a coward for putting up with his boorish—and worse—behavior.” Belville was a student in Dr. Lopez’s class during the 2008 spring semester.
“The college classroom of a state school should be a welcoming environment for all students, and courses, especially health courses, should be based on objective and medically accurate information, not religiously based bias,” said Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “While Professor Lopez is free to talk about his religious beliefs outside of the classroom, Fresno City College has an obligation to protect its students from religious indoctrination and anti-gay bias presented as ‘science’ or ‘fact.’ Professor Lopez’s health class fails students in both regards.”