Ashburn said his DUI arrest led to restless nights. On Monday, the divorced father of four made his private life very public.
He got numerous hugs of support from fellow lawmakers. Earlier, on a radio station in his conservative district of Bakersfield, the Republican came out.
"I am gay snd those are words that have been so difficult for me for so long. But I am gay," he said.
Ashburn had to publicly admit his sexual orientation after being arrested last week on suspicion of drunk driving near the Capitol.
Numerous reports placed him at Faces that evening, a large gay nightclub, not far from where he was pulled over. Many at the Capitol quietly knew Ashburn frequented gay bars for years.
Gay rights activists seized on the opportunity to point out the senator's inconsistency between his anti-gay voting record and his personal life.
"It's awfully sad that someone felt the need to hide who he was and live a double life and actually, in order to continue hiding who he was, became an advocate against his very community," Geoff Kors from Equality California said.
But Ashburn says he only voted the way his heavily Republican district would have wanted.
Ashburn joins other Republicans who were consistently anti-gay, but their personal lives showed something different.
Former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, was arrested for tapping an undercover cop's foot in a men's bathroom at an airport, which is said to be a special code for soliciting sex and former Congressman Mark Foley, R-FL, sent racy texts and emails to teenage boys in the Congressional page program.
State Sen. Mark Leno, who is openly gay, says sexual orientation is irrelevant to their job as politicians.
"He's a human being. He's a father. He's a grandfather. Now, he also shares with us he's a gay man. Of what importance is that really?" he said.
The conservative group 'The Campaign for Children and Families' called for Ashburn's resignation on Monday afternoon; not only for lying about his sexual orientation, but also for endangering others while driving drunk and for voting for taxes.