A Republican California State Senator was arrested in Sacramento, Ca., early Wednesday morning (March 3) for driving under the influence of alcohol.
This alone is not uncommon, although it is to be taken seriously.
What's curious is that shortly before being detained, the lawmaker, State Senator Roy Ashburn, had left Faces, a Sacramento gay bar. Sen. Ashburn, who represents District 18, in Southern California, has voted against every gay rights measure that has crossed his desk in the eight years he has held office.
This, too, is not uncommon. One does not personally know Sen. Ashburn, so one hates to cast stones. And one is as yet unclear as to why Sen. Ashburn was at Faces. Perhaps he was conducting "research," as do so many surreptitious visitors to gay bars.
Statistically speaking, however, it is more likely that Sen. Ashburn was at Faces to enjoy: a.) a cocktail or two (his blood alcohol level was .14, .6 above the legal limit), and b.) the company, however innocent, of gay men and lesbians.
When Sen. Ashburn was pulled over, there was a second man in the car (which, incidentally, was a state-issued vehicle). News reports did not offer any identifying information about the man - name, age, sexual orientation, hair style - beyond noting that he is not a state employee.
It is often the most insistently anti-gay lawmakers who turn out to be the closet cases. There's a dissonant note to their legislative and public virulence, just as there is a dissonant note to their turning up at gay bars (or in airport bathrooms for sexual assignations, etcetera).
This happens so often that it has become cliched. You'd think that, even with their paucity of common sense, the lawmakers would exhibit a more sophisticated sensibility. Alas, not everyone is terrified of being a walking cliche.
And so the legislatively anti-gay closet cases of the world need to be held accountable. By following the dictates of the Republican party fringe, which decries all things gay, they are voting against the interest of people like them.
Well, no. Not people like them. People like them are married, with children, and enjoy all the privileges of "normal" "heterosexual" life while sneaking off and satisfying their homosexual urges on the down-low. And then they vote down gay-rights measures.
Gays and lesbians, on the other hand, live the truth of their sexuality come what may. And it does come: physical violence, taunts, threats, terror at the hands of (closet case) high school jocks, the inability to simply walk through an airport holding hands with their partner without exciting comment, etcetera.
So the Sen. Ashburns of the world are not voting against people like them. They're voting against people they desperately wish they could be: those possessed of the inner peace and psychological consonance that comes from living the truth about themselves.
The Senator seems to want to be honest. First, the biography on his Web site says that, "[i]n the tradition of Ronald Reagan, Senator Ashburn is a true reformer and a champion of openness, accountability, and bi-partisanship." (It is telling that he name-checked Ronald Reagan, that hoary old touchstone of the Republican good old days. Reagan did nothing about the thousands dying of AIDS on his watch.)
Second, Sen. Ashburn partied at a gay bar. It is a psychological truism that all criminals want to get caught. So do those denying the truth about themselves to themselves and others.
Sen. Ashburn issued a statement of apology Wednesday afternoon: "I am deeply sorry for my actions and offer no excuse for my poor judgment. I accept complete responsibility for my conduct and am prepared to accept the consequences for what I did. I am also truly sorry for the impact this incident will have on those who support and trust me - my family, my constituents, my friends, and my colleagues in the Senate."
However heartfelt this statement may be, these kinds of public apologies tend, at this point, to ring hollow. There have been so many; one simply doesn't know what or whom to believe.
Still, one wishes Sen. Ashburn the best. No human is without flaws, God knows. But one also offers the hope that, if appropriate, this may be the moment for Sen. Ashburn to enjoy the benefits of living honestly and freely - come what may.