California senator Roy Ashburn was heckled in 2005 at an anti-gay marriage rally by gay campaigners who knew he was in the closet.

Mr Ashburn, who was outed last week after years of voting against gay rights measures, spoke at the rally while gay rights activists shouted: “We know you’re one of us, Roy!”, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The Republican was arrested last Wednesday morning in Sacramento when police saw him driving erratically. He was found to be over the alcohol limit and had another man in his car. The pair had been in a gay bar.

He told a local radio station on Monday: “I am gay. Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long.”

He justified his votes against gay rights measures by saying he voted how he expected his constituents wanted him to.

Mr Ashburn has been supported by his Senate colleagues, who greeted him with hugs and handshakes on Monday.

One conservative, Randy Thommason, president of SaveCalifornia.com, called for him to resign and implied he could get help to leave his “unnatural lifestyle”.

Mr Thommason said: “Now that he has openly identified with the ‘LGBT’ lifestyle, Ashburn is dramatically out of step with his constituents, has lost their trust, and is in danger of voting against their conservative family values.”

The Bakersfield senator said months ago he will not seek re-election when his term ends later this year.

Meanwhile, an item in the San Francisco Chronicle published today said he had been spotted with a male friend in a Sacramento restaurant. The pair were described as “comfortable and affectionate”.