A confession by Portland’s first openly gay mayor that he lied about having sex with a teenager is dividing this famously progressive city, as well as its gay community.
Just three weeks after Sam Adams was sworn in, many gays are questioning whether he is the man they want as their trailblazer.
“Sam has been our guy forever, which makes this even harder,” said Marty Davis, publisher of the newspaper Just Out, which has called for his resignation. “It’s completely dividing and tearing our community right down the middle.”
Adams easily won last year’s election. He took office on Jan. 1, making Portland the largest US city with an openly gay mayor.
The sex scandal started earlier this week when the 45-year-old Adams admitted to an alternative newspaper, Willamette Week, that he lied during his election campaign when he denied having sex in 2005 with a teenage male who was a legislative intern.
The newspaper said it had evidence showing otherwise, although it never reported details. After being confronted about the relationship, Adams insisted he did not have sex with the young man until after he turned 18.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Adams apologized for lying — and for asking the young man to lie — and left open the possibility that he could resign if doing so would be in the city’s best interests.
Pressure has mounted on the Democrat to do just that.
Four newspapers have called for Adams to step down, including Just Out and the city’s major daily, the Oregonian. Willamette Week said on Thursday that it has not taken a stand.
The Q Center, a Portland gay and lesbian community center that Adams helped found, on Thursday changed the name of an upcoming fundraiser from the “The Mayor’s Winter Ball” to “The Winter Ball” to avoid attention to the controversy facing the mayor.
The sex scandal is stirring debate in Portland’s gay and lesbian community among those who believe Adams should be given a chance and others who insist he must resign.
Davis of Just Out said she is not as concerned about Adams’ relationship with the young man as she is about the lying. She said his actions have eroded the public’s trust in her publication.
Also hurting Adams are revelations that he hired a newspaper reporter who had earlier been looking into rumors that he had had sex with a minor. She now works for Adams as a planning and sustainability policy adviser.
Adams insists he did not hire Amy Ruiz to keep her from looking into his past. And Ruiz says she was hired because of her experience in communications, which, she added, makes up most of her job.
“The allegations or insinuations that my reporting had anything to do with my hiring” are untrue, she told reporters on Thursday.
Ruiz said she made a round of phone calls about the story in May but did not turn up any evidence of Adams’ relationship with a young man named Beau Breedlove.
Her editor decided against running a story.
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger agreed to conduct an investigation into whether Adams committed a crime.
City Commissioner Nick Fish said the commissioners as a body are not taking a stand on the matter until the investigation is complete.
“This is clearly a distraction, but people need to know we are getting work done,” Fish said.