The California senator who was arrested on suspicion of drink driving last week after leaving a gay club has come out.

Roy Ashburn said he was gay on a local radio show yesterday.

He said: “I am gay. Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long.”

Mr Ashburn, a Republican, was arrested last Wednesday morning when police saw him driving erratically. He was found to be over the alcohol limit and had another man in his car.

Records show that he has voted against every gay rights measure in the state Senate since taking office, including the Harvey Milk memorial day, recognising marriages performed in other states and a measure to ban insurers discriminating against gays.

He justified this by saying he voted how he expected his constituents wanted him to.

The divorced father of four told AM 1180 KERN Radio: “I felt my duty – and I still feel this way – is to represent my constituents, not my own point of view, not my own internal conflict.”

He added: “I’ve always believed that I could keep my personal life personal and my public life public. But through my own actions, I have made my personal life public.

“I felt with my heart that you know being gay did not affect, wouldn’t affect, how I did my job.”

The 55-year-old would not state whether he would continue living out of the closet, saying: “I would ask people to pray for me. My faith is very clear and very firm.

“I pray to God that I can find peace, and I want to go back to work in the Senate and work hard for the people who sent me to the legislature.”

Mr Ashburn is to appear in court next month to answer charges of driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol level higher than .08 per cent.

He said months ago he would not seek re-election.