State Senator Roy Ashburn, the California GOP lawmaker with a long anti-gay record recently forced to admit he's gay, says he's “sorry” for voting against gay rights.

Speaking with the Bakersfield Californian, Ashburn said: “I'm sorry for that.”

On Thursday, he spoke for the first time on gay issues on the state Senate floor.

Saying that before his coming out he “would not have been speaking on a measure dealing with sexual orientation ever,” Ashburn added that he was “no longer willing or able to remain silent on issues that affect sexual orientation.”

The 56-year-old Republican's sexuality came under close scrutiny after details of a March 3 drunk-driving arrest were made public, including the fact that he was traveling with a male companion after leaving a popular Sacramento gay bar.

After evading the press for five days, the conservative lawmaker and father of four told talk show host Inga Banks: “I am gay.” Social conservatives immediately asked for Ashburn's resignation, while Republicans gave the termed-out Bakersfield lawmaker a pass.

In the Senate, however, Ashburn split his votes on gay issues, rejecting a bill sponsored by openly gay Senator Mark Leno that exempts clergy from performing civil marriages that counter his or her own faith, but voting in favor of a resolution urging Congress to repeal “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the law that bans gay troops from serving openly. Both measures were approved by the chamber.

Ashburn told the paper he was comfortable with being openly gay.

“I outed myself, I really did,” he said. “I was drinking and doing riskier and riskier things.”

He also said saddling his children with his secret was the most painful part of his charade: “I was so used to lying and hiding who I was, it didn't even occur to me what a horrible burden that was for young teenagers.”