Republican California State Senator Roy Ashburn has gone from zero to gay rights hero in less than a year.

The 56-year-old lawmaker who was forced out of the closet in March received one of the highest scores among lawmakers – including many Democrats – from Equality California, the state's largest gay rights advocate.

Last year, the group awarded the Bakersfield Republican a zero for voting against or abstaining on every single gay rights bill debated in the chamber. In contrast, Ashburn supported 12 out of 14 measures included in this year's ranking and carried in the Senate a bill that repeals a decades-old gay “cure” mandate from state code.

Ashburn addressed his abysmal record on gay rights in an op-ed appearing on the website “All this was done because I was afraid – terrified, really – that somehow I would be revealed as gay.”

That day came when local media reported on Ashburn's March 3 drunk-driving arrest, which included the fact that he was traveling with a male companion after leaving a popular Sacramento gay bar. Within days, he admitted that he had been living a lie.

The divorced father of four told On Top Magazine in August that he believes gay rights are a conservative issue.

“I would argue that the Republican party, because of the principles underlying Republicanism, really is the party that should be championing equal rights for gay people, for all people. For me this is very clear,” the termed-out lawmaker said.