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    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.

    SamadamsvertI 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!

    BeaubreedlovevertLet'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:

    Dear Portlander,

    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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    1. Amicus on Jan 29, 2009 12:34:02 PM:

      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.
      For one, isn't Breedlove corroborating that?

      Not that that is conclusive, but it, along with much else, makes this case quite a lot different than Foley's.

      What's more, that corroboration and the rest of what Breedlove has said suggest that a higher standard than the law may not be what is owing, provided this is truly a one-off case, not a behavior pattern.

      As for "image of gay men generally", do you ever leave space to retract these blanket assessments? For instance, given what is coming out nationwide about Governors (including an impeachment today), isn't McGreevey almost scandal-irrelevant, even though he was once denounced as a scoundrel and 'creepy'?

    1. Tim C on Jan 29, 2009 1:14:17 PM:

      I have not followed this story very closely, and probably won't, but I just have one question regarding him resigning or not: what would we/his constituents be demanding were the other party a 17/18 y.o. girl at the time? I think that, given his inability to tell the truth about the issue, I would want him out of office as he has lost my trust.

    1. Keith on Jan 29, 2009 1:48:19 PM:

      Willamette Week has Adams on tape making some very serious claims about John Vezina - an aide to U.S. Sen Mark Begich (D-Alaska) - who has been a leader in the GLBT community:

      "During the Jan. 15 interview, WW asked Adams why [Jon] Vezina would say something that Adams—at the time—was contending was a lie. Adams suggested it was because Vezina had an ulterior motive. Adams said it was because “I accused him of trying to rape Beau.”


      So here's Adams attempting to sully the reputation of another gay man and a real leader in our GLBT community, and yet look at all the support he's getting to stay in office!

      This isn't about the lie; it's about how he lied.

    1. Kelly on Jan 29, 2009 2:13:09 PM:

      As I recall, loud and unwavering pronouncements to the public that one "did not have sex with that woman" are cause for more than a bit of trouble. Here we're talking about a boy, or at least a minor at the time things began, so there seems to be even more cause for concern. Cleanliness beyond that of Ms. Caesar may be an unfair double standard, but I doubt the public would be much less forgiving if this were a straight U.S. Senator diddling his underage female intern. We're long past the days of hara kiri, but resignation simply for the sake of honor would be welcome change of behavior for a politician.

    1. Pender on Jan 29, 2009 5:20:10 PM:

      I wish the gay community had called loudly and unanimously for Adams' resignation. We would have done ourselves a world of good if we stood up against this kind of crap that only reinforces the worst stereotypes of gay men as predators. Instead, it seems that at least large parts of our community was only too eager to claim him as one of our own.

      For whatever it's worth, I have nothing in common with someone who would fuck a kid 20+ years his junior, and probably before the kid was 18 as well (what, we're taking him at his word? Yeah fucking right). His fight is not my fight, and he in no way represents any community that I'd like to be a member of.

      And you know what? All the lying is really just icing on the cake. It makes the scandal worse, but it would have been bad enough without it, and it is definitely not the main problem.

    1. justmeee on Jan 29, 2009 6:54:23 PM:

      For the damage Sam has done to the gay community and for the HUGE amounts of damage this egotistical bastard is about to do, he deserves to be banished to the darkest corner of hell. Look at Elliot Spitzer, Sam. When his shit came out, he got the hell out of doge, and now he's basically been forgotten. Get a clue, asswipe.

    1. Lucrece on Jan 29, 2009 8:43:42 PM:

      What a bunch of self-righteous queens.

    1. Amicus on Jan 29, 2009 9:58:30 PM:

      Actually, at this moment, perhaps "our" time would be better spent trying to ride the wave of free publicity that Ted Haggard is getting.

      There are probably lots of young, gay kids, trapped in their anti-gay communities, who are watching as if their lives depended on it, on how Haggard is treated, on what the outreach and the counter-message is from the 'gay community'.

    1. Leo on Jan 30, 2009 1:47:57 PM:

      The problem is that Sam Adams only perpetuates the stereotype of gay men as predators. The gay community is smart to have someone like Andrew Sullivan as one of its most visible spokesmen for marriage. He was caught in an AIDS barebacking orgy scandal, but nonetheless. If a person wants to share HIV+ fluids with anonymous partners in private, who are we to judge that? Whereas Sam Adams hurt a very young man. We are sure to one day achieve gay marriage and equal rights as long as we protect our demand to bareback.

    1. Chuck on Jan 30, 2009 8:45:26 PM:

      When the fuck are we gonna get out of people's bedrooms, straight and gay?

      Christ, our gay brand or morality is no better than that of the Fundies and the magical undies people.

      What a bunch of gossip mongers. How many of you could stand up to the kind of scrutiny that so many people in the public eye are required to endure on a daily basis? And where do any of you get off judging anyone.?

      I am not a religious person and normally not given to quoting the bible, but I think this one is apropos here.

      "let he who is without sin cast the first stone".

    1. rob hite on Jan 31, 2009 9:51:39 PM:

      Please read what Wayne Besen has to say on this suject. He said it better than I ever could.


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