Ashburn's Coming Out Raises Question: How Gay Is Bakersfield?

Categories: LGBT, Politics
State Sen. Roy Ashburn
Not very, by any measure we've found. Better to say that life in Bakersfield and Kern County, home to gay -- and virulently anti-gay-rights -- Republican state Sen. Roy Ashburn, goes on under a pall of socially accepted homophobia that would seem decidedly alien to San Francisco residents.

Ashburn's latest explanation of his staggering history of voting down gay-friendly legislation in Sacramento is that he was reflecting the wishes of his constituents. It's a classic and oft-heard legislative cop-out, and doesn't do much to justify Ashburn's role in reinforcing prejudices against a group we now know he should have sympathized with more than most.

Still, there's no denying that the rainbow flags aren't exactly flying across Kern County, the southernmost, socially regressive bastion of California's largely conservative Central Valley. More than 75 percent of the county's residents voted in favor of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that made it unconstitutional for gay couples to wed.

As California Watch notes today, there isn't much specific polling on the subject of gay rights in Ashburn's home district. But there are indications the Prop. 8 vote wasn't a one-off. Over the weekend, the Bakersfield Californian admitted that it had made the bizarre decision to help Ashburn conceal his sexual orientation, arguing that it wasn't "relevant." (Guys, c'mon: The obvious hypocrisy in a gay senator opposing gay rights is capital-N News.)

Also consider this preposterously straight-faced "investigation" by Bakersfield television news station KGET of the soundly discredited practice of "reparative therapy," the creepy, religion-driven effort to "cure" gay people. Suffice it to say that these journalists' charitable treatment of the procedure's advocates wouldn't fly in the Bay Area.

What does all this mean for the hapless Ashburn? Who knows -- maybe he'd be happier in San Francisco. Think about it, Roy. Ever considered running for sheriff?

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified the call sign of the Bakersfield news station that produced a story on reparative therapy. The name is KGET. The above text has been revised accordingly. 

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