Roy Ashburn was born in Long Beach, California, in 1954, and grew up in San Luis Obispo along California’s central coast. At 8, Roy became interested in public service for the first time, and by the time he reached high school, he was elected student body president of Arroyo Grande High School. Roy went on to earn his BA in public administration at Cal State Bakersfield. While there, he served as president of the Bakersfield Republican Assembly. By 1988, he was serving as Kern County chair for the George H.W. Bush presidential campaign.
During this entire time and for years afterwards, as Roy got married, had kids, and continued to climb the ladder of California GOP politics, he knew he was gay. Years earlier, he had seen what happened when one of his middle school teachers was arrested for “lewd and lascivious behavior” with another man. Roy saw the public shaming and ruination that befell that teacher. Probably accurately, Roy believed he could never be a public servant from California’s deeply conservative Central Valley and be openly gay. He stayed closeted, with tragic consequences.
In 1997, Roy was elected to the California State Assembly. In 2002, he was elected to the California State Senate. Roy stayed in the California Senate until 2010. During his time in Sacramento, he consistently voted against gay rights legislation. He voted against funding for HIV/AIDS, even when his own brother was dying of AIDS.
In 2010, Roy’s life turned upside down when he was arrested for drunk driving on his way home from a gay bar. At the age of 55, he finally came out. He also got sober. Since coming out, he has been able to transform his life from one based in fear to one based in “authenticity, serenity and love.” He has also done a lot of repenting and making amends.
Today, Roy is married to a man named Nattapong Charoenmit. He has three grown daughters and four grandchildren. Roy and Nattapong live back in San Luis Obispo, where Roy grew up, about 135 miles and several worlds west of Bakersfield.
Roy as a toddler at Big Bear Lake, CA. Roy shares, “I have always loved the outdoors and gain spiritual strength from the mountains and beach. Years later, I would represent Big Bear as State Senator. The community was part of my 18th Senate District.” Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.Roy at 2-years-old, getting ready to mow the lawn with his father Ted Ashburn, March 1956. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.Roy on the left, pointing a gun away from the camera and dressed as a cowboy in a plaid shirt. He shares, “I was always attracted to the West and the cowboy life. Childhood heroes included Roy Rogers (King of the Cowboys) and Sky King.” Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.Roy with brother Ted Ashburn and father Ted Ashburn. Roy shares, “Looks like I was getting ready to beat the drum.” Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.Roy at age 4 with baby brother Dale Ashburn. Roy shares: “I was always closer to Dale than my brother, Ted. There was a period in our young lives when I felt it was my responsibility to protect Dale.” Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.(L-R): Dale Ashburn, Ted Asburn, and Roy Ashburn as children. Roy shares, “Three brothers – Dale, Ted, and Roy. My brothers are looking away – my eyes are on you. I love the connection with people.” Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.Roy Ashburn in fourth grade, Grovery City, CA. Roy shares: “I was already interested in government and politics. I served in every elected school position possible – Flag Monitor, Class President, Student Body
President.” Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.(L-R): Ted Asburn, Dale Ashburn, and Roy Ashburn (at age 28) as adults. Roy shares, “I was always closer to my brother, Dale. Although we never discussed it, Dale was gay and died of AIDS at a very young age.” Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.Roy Ashburn, serving as Kern County Supervisor, speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Shafter/Wasco Administration and Courts Complex in Shafter, CA, 1991. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.The groundbreaking ceremony for the Shafter/Wasco Administration and Courts Complex in Shafter, CA, 1991. Cathy Prout and Roy Ashburn, serving as Kern County Supervisor, are featured at center. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.L-R: Roy Ashburn (serving as Kern County Supervisor) and John Petrini (owner of Petrini Construction) at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Shafter/Wasco Administration and Courts Complex in Shafter, CA, 1991. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.The “Roy Ashburn ‘96 for Assembly” Campaign Booth at the Porterville Fair, Porterville, CA, 1996. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.The official street sign for Roy Ashburn’s Assembly Office on Old Church Plaza, Bakersfield, CA, 1997. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.L-R: Dr. Michael Clark and Assemblyman Roy Ashburn on the State Capital steps, Sacramento, CA, 1999. Roy displays original artwork created by clients of the Kern Regional Center. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.Roy Ashburn and the South East Tulare County (SETCO) Republican Women standing outside of the Chamber of Commerce for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of his campaign headquarters, Porterville, CA, September 9th, 1998. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.Official portrait of Roy Ashburn as State Assemblyman, California, 1998. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.Roy Ashburn, serving as State Assemblyman and speaking on the State Capitol steps, Sacramento, CA, 1999. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.L-R: Senator Roy Ashburn and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the State Capitol, Sacramento, CA, 2004. Photo courtesy of Roy Ashburn.
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