The other day I wrote about Ca. State Senator Roy Ashburn and his DUI arrest at two a.m. after leaving the Sacramento gay bar Faces.
Since then, a few things have come to light.
First, a boyculture.com blogger has written that he knows the man who was in the car with Ashburn at the time of the detainment. The man is twenty-nine and Latino. (It was "Latino night" at the bar.) The man's ethnicity pertains only in that Ashburn was legislatively as anti-immigration as he was anti-gay. So: an anti-gay, anti-immigration legislator in the wee-hours company of a gay Latino man after leaving a gay bar? Hoo boy.
(Note that the anti-immigration protestor in the photo above is holding a sign in which the word "official" is misspelled. This suggess that she believes America's primary language should be one in which no care is taken viz. spelling, grammar, and etcetera. She appears impassioned, however, which is nice, and her shirt is very pretty.)
The man, who lives in San Jose, was staying at the Hyatt in Sacramento (he was in that city on business), which is close to where Ashburn was pulled over, boyculture notes.
The site also has two screen grabs of Facebook status updates allegedly posted by the man later in the day that Ashburn was pulled over. They read, "You guys will read about my night in short while..." and, "just woke up from a nap... I still can't believe last night's incident OMG!!!!"
The man has since deleted those posts, and he turned his Facebook site private (i.e., no access for Facebook members not among the man's selected "friends").
Boyculture also notes that Ashburn identified himself as a state senator to the California Highway Patrol officer who pulled him over. It's not clear if he did that to curry privilege or because he was asked why he was driving a state-issued vehicle - or for some other reason.
Other pertinent notes:
In its first piece on the incident, the Sacramento Bee, the paper of record in that town, failed to mention both the Faces connection and that Ashburn had a male passenger in the car when he was detained. It's tough to say whether this was a courtesy to Ashburn - covering up the obvious, which is loathsome - or because reporter Bill Lindelof could only do so much in the middle of the night. Newspapers' first deadlines are usually before midnight. I'm surprised the Bee got anything into that morning's paper, given that the arrest happened at two in the morning and Lindelof must have been writing the ten-graf piece at around two-thirty or three.
As it turns out, Ashburn's sexuality was common knowledge in some Sacramento sectors, according to blogger Joe Jervis. Christopher Cabaldon, the openly gay mayor of West Sacramento (photo, left), wrote last year on his Facebook site that "[i]t wouldn't bother me so much to see Roy Ashburn a [the gay bar] Badlands with a boy if he didn't have such a bad voting record on gay rights." Cabaldon recently told Sacramento CBS affiliate KOVR-TV (which included in its first Ashburn story the Faces and male-passenger connections) that he saw Ashburn numerous times at gay bars.
As Jervis rightly notes, this is detestable on Cabaldon's part. Why didn't Cabaldon speak up? In the recent KOVR interview, the Mayor offered a wishy-washy take on Ashburn's arrest: "To live a secret life and at the same time be attacking the people you are one of but are too shamed to admit, that's hypocrisy."
Really? What do you call a politician who knew all along about a closeted legislator's proclivities - and voting record - and yet said nothing?
First mayors, then newspapers. Jervis writes that the Californian, the newspaper of record in Bakersfield, Ca. (part of Ashburn's district) last summer acted on a tip that an unnamed Sacramento newspaper was about to reveal Ashburn's sexuality. Someone from the Californian called the senator and asked him about it. Jervis quotes Ashburn as telling the paper's caller, "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."
When it was pointed out that Ashburn's voting record was consistently anti-gay, the Senator replied that he was just voting as his constituents wanted him to.
He repeated that claim in today's coming-out radio interview, which suggests it might be some kind of defense-measure talking point. Here's what he told the talk-show host at radio station KERN: "My votes reflect the wishes of the people in my district. I have always felt that my faith and allegiance was to the people.... And so as each of these individual measures came before the Legislature I cast 'no' votes, usually 'no' votes, because the measures were... almost always acknowledging rights or assigning identification to homosexual persons."
That logic is so tortured it doesn't even bear parsing. What an arch denial of accountability. It's his constituents' fault?
And, wait: "homosexual persons?" Is there a more distancing way to talk about gay men and lesbians? Not even "people," but "persons?" Jesus. (For a deconstruction of the difference between "gay" and "homosexual," see note at the end of this post.)
Anyway: did the Californian have a responsibility to Ashburn's constituents to run the story about his sexuality? Absolutely. Did the paper run it? Absolutely not. The paper agreed with Ashburn that it was "not relevant." (No one knows which Sacramento paper was about to drop the hammer last summer.)
There's a sickening level of reality denying here, and the responsibility fall at the feet of the press, Mayor Caldabon - and the Sacramento gay community.
This last is especially troubling. You have to be self-hating - or politically unaware - beyond belief to know that an anti-gay state senator is partying at your bars and you do and say nothing. (Some people in the community must have talked to that "Sacramento newspaper" for its expose. That's cold comfort, however: the paper spiked the story.)
As for Cabaldon, the mayor - is he kidding? As Jervis points out, what about an op-ed in the Bee? Why only Facebook?
And the press? First, if information was right there on Cabaldon's Facebook page, how did reporters miss it?
Second, some people rightly suggest that coming out of the closet is a personal journey with its own timeline, and it is a private decision by an individual. I agree. Closeted homosexual politicians? I've got no problem with them (though the twisted nature of the closet may preclude clear legislative thinking).
But those ones who use their bully pulpit to bully gay men and lesbians? And who want the privilege of cavorting in the spots, and having sex with the members, of the very community they consistently legislate against?
Write about 'em.
(Incidentally, there are homosexuals and there are gay people. This is an important semantic distinction. Gay people are homosexual, but closeted homosexuals aren't gay people. Homosexuals are sexually attracted to members of their gender. They may act on that attraction, but they don't tell anyone. The sexuality of gay people, by contrast, is integrated into their lives. Openly gay men and lesbians are honest about all of who they are as people. It takes no small measure of bravery to do that in the face of a society some parts of which still deny some legal protection to gays and lesbians. It takes no courage at all - in fact, it takes cowardice - to lurk in the closet while enjoying the company of gay people and spending your days voting down legislation that would protect those very people. Senator Ashburn wasn't gay until today, when he said the word himself (i.e., he came out of the closet). Until then, he was merely homosexual.)