State Senator Roy Ashburn, the California GOP lawmaker with a long anti-gay record who was recently forced to admit he's gay, says being honest about his sexuality was never an option in a new interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Ashburn told Pat Morrison that he learned at an early age that being gay was something to hide. He said he realized this in the sixth grade when he overheard negative talk surrounding a police raid on gay men.

“That sticks in my mind – the publicity and the shame around it. One of my teachers was one of the people. The talk among the kids, the talk among the adults, the talk in the community, the press – at the time the choice was pretty clear: If you were gay and open, it was a life of shame, ridicule, innuendo about molesting and perversion. It was a dark life. Given that choice of whether you come out or whether you're in a secret, I mean, there really wasn't a choice.”

The 56-year-old Republican and divorced father of four was forced to reveal his sexuality 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.

Five days later, Ashburn publicly admitted that he is gay. But it would take another three months before he began talking openly about his sexuality and the secret he says drove him to drink.

Ashburn said he voted against gay rights bills out of fear of being discovered.

“I was so in terror I could not allow any attention to come my way,” he said. “So any measure that had to do with the subject of sexual orientation was an automatic 'no' vote. I was paralyzed by this fear, and so I voted without even looking at the content.”

Being outed, however, appears to have lifted a dark cloud for the termed-out senator.

“I don't know that I've ever felt more optimistic about the future for myself,” he said. “I don't know what the future holds, but I think it's going to be incredible.”