A Facebook status hinting at the events of March 3.When California State Senator Roy Ashburn was arrested on a DUI in Sacramento in the early hours of March 3 (his blood alcohol level wound up being .14 in a state whose legal limit is .08), the big national news was that the divorced father of four—staunchly against all LGBT-friendly legislation—was picked up after leaving a gay bar called Faces (pictured). However, the Sacramento Bee's coverage failed to mention the bar, nor did it mention the fact that he had a male passenger at the time of his arrest.
Ashburn's closet was built in part by the local media
Context, context, context.
Boy Culture has new information that suggests Ashburn's mystery passenger is an openly gay 29-year-old San Jose man (he looks several years younger) who was visiting Sacramento for work and who did not know Ashburn is a senator. He is a Latino, which fits nicely with the supposition that Ashburn was picked up outside Faces—Tuesday was Latin Night.
From Ashburn's passenger's Facebook
The manager of Faces has said she can't confirm Ashburn was in her establishment, but implied he probably wasn't because she'd remember an older white male:
"Tuesday nights are a very, very huge Latin crowd. We don't see a lot of white guys here on a Tuesday night. A white guy would stick out like a sore thumb."
Aside from the fact that I wouldn't expect a manager to remember every face, I'm willing to bet Latin Night at any gay bar has just as many older white men as it has younger Latinos!
My understanding is that Ashburn's passenger was staying at the Hyatt, which was very close to the spot where their vehicle, a government-issued car, was pulled over. I have no information as to whether this was a trick situation or simply one man driving another man back to his hotel—perhaps the passenger just stuck out his sore thumb to hitch a ride.
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. What's next, hiring someone to mercilessly tax his assets in order to spread the wealth?
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?
While I know the identity of the man I believe was in the car, I'm not revealing it yet—I wrote him to ask for a confirmation or a denial, but the only reaction from him so far was his decision to hastily delete some indiscreet Facebook status updates (reproduced within this post) and take his account private.
At least somebody is talking—Christopher Cabaldon, the out gay mayor of West Sacramento, has confirmed he's seen Ashburn at gay bars in the area and notes:
"To live a secret life and at the same time be attacking the people who you're one of but are too ashamed to admit, that's hypocrisy."
It's not illegal to be closeted or a hypocrite or to be self-loathing or even just to be a Machiavellian careerist, one or more of which probably fits Sen. Ashburn's behavior; the judgment aspect of this case is important, but is a social issue. More to the point is that this is a news story with relevant, easily demonstrable facts that were ignored by a local newspaper. Why?
News organizations should never be in the business of censoring pertinent information about public officials. If a politician is voting against gay issues while publicly cruising gay bars, that is as pertinent as if a politician who strongly advocates health care reform refuses to offer health benefits to his or her staff.
More info as I get it. Hopefully, Mr. Ashburn's passenger will come forward.
In the meantime, don't look for Ashburn—currently in his last year of office due to term limits—to show up at the California Republican Party's Spring Convention next week. Or if he does show up, don't accept a ride home from him if he offers.
LIGHT-HEARTED UPDATE: In other news:
Ed Helms gets my vote to play Ashburn in the movie!