January 29, 2009
Should we 'Stand By Our Sam'?
Posted by: Chris
The sleazy scandal enveloping the openly gay mayor of Portland, who admits he lied about having sex with a teenage legislative intern, has descended into the absurd, now that Sam Adams has made clear he has no intention of resigning. Consider the opening graphs of Time magazine's report:
The cast of the scandal in Portland, Ore., has a certain ring to it: Sam Adams. Bob Ball. Beau Breedlove and his dog Lolita ... "Everyone has porn names!" says Mark Wiener with a laugh. "Until yesterday, it had never occurred to me that the worst offending name was mine." Wiener (pronounced Wee-ner) is one of Oregon's most influential political consultants and a former — and now disheartened — campaign adviser to the protagonist in this political soap opera.
That would be Sam Adams, the new mayor of Portland and the first openly gay man to lead a major American city. Then there's Bob Ball, an openly gay local real estate developer who once had mayoral ambitions himself. In 2007, Ball hinted that Adams' mentoring relationship with a former legislative intern, Beau Breedlove (now 21), was, in fact, a sexual one that had begun when the young man was just 17.
I commented earlier on the lack of glee in the usual quarters of the gay blogosphere about such scandals, mainly because Adams is out and a Democrat. But some, including one of the usual worst offenders -- the Stranger's Dan Savage -- are actually campaigning for Adams to stay in office.
The Facebook group launched to support Adams makes their case this way:
Sam Adams was impolitic when he decided to have a sexual relationship with an 18 year-old. He made a mistake when he lied about the relationship to the public. But, this mistake does not warrant a witch hunt, a public investigation, or calling for the resignation of a committed public servant.
Don't we have more important issues to deal with in Portland when Oregon has a 9% unemployment rate and the future of our schools is in jeopardy?
If you have ever had a relationship that you later felt was a mistake, don't be one of those throwing the first stone. Support Sam Adams!
Let's break that down. Adams, then 42, was "impolitic" in having a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old? Actually, Breedlove was only 17 when they met and first kissed -- once in Adams' car and once in a City Hall men's room.
Adams insists he waited until Breedlove was 18 for their first sexual contact, but he has lied so many times about so many other details concerning this relationship. Why should he be believed on this point, especially when his motive to lie would be so powerful -- the age of consent in Oregon is 18.
He "made a mistake when he lied about the relationship"? He did more than lie; back in 2007, he labeled the accusation a "nasty smear" and posted an "open letter to Portlanders" that, ironically enough, is still available on his website:
As you have probably seen in the media, I have been the target of a nasty smear by a would-be political opponent. I will not dignify the substance of this smear by repeating it - if you read the accounts you will see there is no foundation to it. The reason is simple: it is untrue.
This kind of ugly politicking may be commonplace in other cities and at the national level, but Portland and Oregon largely has been blessedly free of it. It saddens me that it has been introduced here, and I have faith that Portlanders' rejection of it will mean that this incident is an anomaly.
About this attempted smear, here is what I want to say.
I have in the past, and I will in the future, respond to people who reach out to me for help and advice. This is especially true when it comes to young people.
Growing up in Newport and Eugene, Oregon I remember when I was a teenager and I had nobody who I felt I could talk to at a time I desperately needed someone to give me advice and perspective about coming to terms with being gay. I came through it. Not everyone does.
Gay youth suicide rates, homelessness and depression are still too high. And adequate services have been lacking: Reasons why I co-founded Portland's Q Center, served on the Boards of Cascade AIDS Project, Basic Right Oregon and lobbied the state legislature in support of statewide non-discrimination laws.
I didn't get into public life to allow my instinct to help others to be snuffed out by fear of sleazy misrepresentations or political manipulation. I understand the need for good judgment, and I keep within the bounds of propriety -- as I did in this case.
I'm glad that people consider me as a person they could come to for help, understanding and support. I work at it. And I hope that you do too. Local programs needing mentors have long waiting lists.
Now, even if we are to believe Adams' latest version of events, we know that his idea of "propriety" was not violating the law itself. Like Mark Foley before him, Adams abused the trust and responsibility that comes with mentoring vulnerable younger men, where the balance of power is so obviously lopsided.
Adams' open letter makes clear that he recognized that responsibility, even as he shirked it and lied about it openly and repeatedly. He's even lied a number of times since going public with his admission, acknowledging additional facts about the nature of the relationship only as the facts compelled him to do so.
I don't see how he recovers the public's trust at this point, and there is absolutely no way for him to repair the damage he's done to the image of gay men generally.
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