Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) said he felt compelled to address the rumors. He did so Monday morning in a radio interview.
"I am gay. And so, those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long," Ashburn said during an interview on AM1180 KERN in Bakersfield (Scroll down for complete interview).
The statement comes just days after Ashburn, who has a history of voting against gay rights legislation, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving near the state Capitol. A Sacramento television station reported that he was at a gay nightclub prior to the arrest.
Ashburn said Monday he felt compelled to address rumors.
"Through my own actions, I have made my personal life public," Ashburn said.
When asked what he wants people to do with that information, Ashburn said, "I would ask people to pray for me."
The 55-year-old father of four says he crossed the line and broke the law, putting people at risk, so he owes the public an explanation. He was first elected to the Assembly in 1996.
He has said those votes reflect how constituents in his district wanted him to vote.
"It is something that is personal," Ashburn said. "I felt with my heart that being gay would not affect how I do my job.
"I felt my duty was to represent my constituents. That system of government provides for representatives elected by the people to go to legislative bodies and cast votes on behalf of the people... not my own point of view."
His record includes votes against efforts to expand anti-discrimination laws and recognize out-of-state gay marriages. Last year, he opposed a bill to establish a day of recognition to honor slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk.
Equality California, a group that advocates for expanded gay rights and other issues, said it consistently gave Ashburn a zero rating on its scorecard. The group's executive director, Geoff Kors, said Monday that he hopes the senator's revelation will lead to a change in his voting patterns.
"He's still the same person, only living more honestly," Kors said. "I hope his own self-awareness will result in him no longer voting to deny people the most basic rights."
The Sacramento County district attorney said Ashburn's blood-alcohol level was .14 percent when was arrested early last Wednesday morning. The legal limit is .08.
He has been on leave since the arrest. Ashburn was expected back at the Capitol Monday afternoon.