Veteran Arnold watchers say the California governor’s announced veto of his state’s historic same-sex marriage bill is an affront to the memory of his most enthusiastic early supporters: the gay sugar daddies of the international bodybuilding circuit.

“Arnold has had a long association with rich gay men,” according to Wendy Leigh, author of Schwarzenegger: An Unauthorized Biography. “When he moved to England [around the time of his first Mr. Universe title in 1967], John Dixey, a British businessman and well-known aficionado of muscle boys, was very, very kind to Arnold. You have to understand, before Arnold came on the scene, it was common currency that bodybuilders were less than macho—it was absolutely given and accepted that they supported themselves by catering to the tastes of wealthy gay men.”

Another of Schwarzenegger’s early benefactors, Leigh says, was Paco Arce Gomez, a Spanish millionaire and renowned gay playboy. In a 1992 Spy magazine profile of the Conan the Barbarian star, Arce was credited as the lensman behind a series of photos from the Austrian’s early days, showing him “eating breakfast off of very fancy china wearing a tank top and tight underwear.” (Schwarzenegger also posed nude for homoerotic photog Robert Mapplethorpe at least three times in the seventies and famously appeared naked in a 22-photo spread in now-defunct gay rag After Dark.)

Paul Barresi, an L.A.-based private investigator who claims P.I. Anthony Pellicano hired him before the 2002 election to “look into” any compromising relationships the then-prospective candidate still had in the demimonde, said he was “shocked that Arnold would turn his back on the very people who were obviously so helpful to him. In fact, Arnold even met his wife, Maria [Shriver], though his friendship with a gay member of Maria’s family.”

The governator has been careful to frame his veto as promoting the will of the people as evidenced by an outdated 2000 vote against same-sex nuptials (today public opinion is split down the middle), and has been mostly mum about his personal feelings on the issue. At least since his notorious 1977 interview with Oui magazine, in which he claimed to “have absolutely no hang-ups about the fag business.”