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Was a conservative California legislator cruising gay bars?

SACRAMENTO _ A prominent California Republican state senator who was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in his state-issued car in Sacramento has taken a personal leave through Sunday from the upper house of the state Legislature.

State Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield, a 14-year veteran of the Legislature, was arrested at about 2 a.m. Wednesday near the state Capitol.

Ashburn later issued a written apology, but the arrest has catapulted his personal life into a very public spotlight.

A Sacramento TV station reported that unnamed sources saw Ashburn at a gay bar the night before the arrest, setting off a media frenzy that stretched from the blogosphere to late-night television talk shows.

Ashburn's hometown paper, the Bakersfield Californian, printed excerpts from an unpublished interview he did last year in which the divorced father declined to address rumors he was gay.

"Why would that be anyone's business?" he told a columnist. "I think there are certain subjects that are simply not relevant, and this is one of them."

But in a world where activists have the ability to instantly hold politicians accountable for any inconsistency between their public actions and personal behavior, some say sexual orientation is entirely relevant.

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, an openly gay Democrat, told The Sacramento Bee and other media he had spotted Ashburn at other gay bars in Sacramento in recent months.

"I don't think it's a scandal for an elected official to be gay," Cabaldon said. "But if you're going to vote against every piece of hate-crimes legislation (to protect gays), that's hypocritical."

In the interview, Ashburn said he didn't believe he had been a staunch anti-gay activist, insisting that the way he'd voted on social issues reflected his constituents' views.

Read the complete story at sacbee.com

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