Jason Tseng

Portland's Gay Mayor Fesses Up To Sexual Relationship with Teenage Former Staffer

Filed By Jason Tseng | January 21, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: beau breedlove, oregon, portland, Sam Adams

Some sad news comes to us from the Pacific Northwest as Sam Adams, 44, confesses a previously denied sexual relationship with a teenage former staffer, Beau Breedlove, whom he met when Breedlove was just 17. Adams was hailed as the first gay mayor of a large city in the United States, and was widely liked and supported by Portlanders during his rise to the mayoralty.

medium_sam.adams1.jpgbreedlove.jpgThe allegations of a relationship between Adams and Breedlove first came about during the hotly-contested mayoral race in 2007, which Adams and Breedlove both denied. Claiming that their relationship was exclusively platonic, Adams went on to denounce the allegations as a smear campaign against him. Adams even invoked homophobia, calling the rumors "the worst thing that you can say about a gay guy. That he's is not trustworthy with children."

Adams is currently in Washington D.C. for Obama's inauguration but made a phone confession to the Willamette Weekly, which had been slated to release a story on the relationship. It is unclear if Adams will retain his elected office or if he will resign. Catch a local news story on the developing scandal after the jump...

Adams made it clear that though he and Breedlove had met when the former intern was only 17, they did not begin a sexual relationship until Breedlove turned 18. This comes as a shock to many in the Gay and Lesbian political scene, many of whom had placed great pride in Adams rise.

While it is indeed a sad story to see a public official engaged in a sexual affair with a teenage staffer, I can't say that I'm terribly surprised by all of this. With the obsession with youth and beauty so central to the gay male community, it is not uncommon to see men in their 40's pursuing much younger partners. I've personally been witness to many of my peers engage in "inappropriate" relationships with older gay mentors, professors, bosses. While Adams' actions are regrettable and his dishonesty to the Portland community is undesirable, I'm not pushing for Adams to resign. He didn't in fact, break any laws, nor did he really break any social mores within our community. What do y'all think?


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"While Adams' actions are regrettable and his dishonesty to the Portland community is undesirable, I'm not pushing for Adams to resign. He didn't in fact, break any laws, nor did he really break any social mores within our community."

He didn't break any mores in our community? He lied. Is dishonesty suddenly not a bad thing among LGBT people?

Adams lied. He shouldn't have. He's lost his credibility, at least for now. He can earn it back, but it takes a long time to earn back trust.

Look, I'm conservative, and maybe a touch homophobic too.

I see this as no better - and no worse - than a str8 female mayor having a relationship with an 18 year old male staffer who she met when he was 17.

It's marginally better, by a whisker, than a str8 male mayor having a relationship with an 18 year old female staffer who he met when she was 17.

Why the whisker difference? Ask any Feminist about relative power in today's society. It might be a mighty thick whisker.

I'm not familiar with relative power matrix in the Gay community, so could be wrong. But I don't think so.

So although I'm a neo-con, somewhat priggish, square, someone who thinks history will look kindly on GWB, someone not "progressive" and generally out-of-step with most here... I don't see that he's done anything wrong. Certainly not compared to Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. And *that* wasn't bad enough for impeachment, not by a mile. The behaviour of the Wingnut Right then was as deranged as the Moonbat Left's views on ChimpyHalliburtonBusHitler THE ANTICHRIST!!! as many here think of him.

Maybe it's a cultural thing. Australians tend not to be so uptight about such matters, what concerns us is abuse of relative power. Powerful Boss and Powerless Employee. And I don't see that here.

I share the sentiments. I don't see how such a triviality would speak for the ability to do your job as a mayor. I'll be sad if he caves in and resigns.

Furthermore, this connection to gay male valuing beauty and youth is plain old bullshit. This is not endemic to our community; it's fairly common in the straight community as well. Being attracted to subjects in their prime is pretty darn natural; I don't know why some keep demonizing instinct.

Furthermore, this connection to gay male valuing beauty and youth is plain old bullshit. This is not endemic to our community; it's fairly common in the straight community as well. Being attracted to subjects in their prime is pretty darn natural; I don't know why some keep demonizing instinct.

Agreed, Lucrece. While it is common for gay men to have a younger sex partner (legal!), it's also common for straight men too - they're called "trophy wives." :)

Gavin Newsome didn't resign when he had an affair with his assistant's wife...instead the assistant resigned.

Not condoning Newsome's behaviour, which leads me to believe that he might in fact be a touch manic, but if Vitter didn't have to resign, and Newsome didn't resign, and even Larry Craig didn't, and if this time the mayor told the truth(and I am not sure that I believe him now) that they didn't begin the sexual aspect of the relationship til the young man was 18(ok, I do think that he is lying) then stupid, unappealing, fodder for the Christian Right though the event may be, it is not illegal...or ostensibly immoral....

While it's sad that this will likely halt one of the most promising LGBT political careers in the country, I hope he doesn't resign. There are too many straight men in office who have done the exact same thing (including lying about it) and never even considered resignation. David Vitter even broke the law by PAYING for sex and remained in the Senate.

As long as the sex truly didn't start until the guy was 18, Adams resignation would reinforce the view that gay sexuality is "worse" than straight. It's what Jim McGreevy did and it still pisses me off.

Whatev. The dude was legal. Dirty old straight politicos do the same thing, and with a much greater age difference. And he was a *former* staffer too, right? No big deal in my book...

Well, to be fair McGreevy did use his position as Governor to secure his male lover a high power and high pay job in his office during their tryst... which is well within the parameters of what we call corrupt.

But the McGreevey's are one big soap opera of a scandal that I'm happy to put behind us.

Which is exactly what pissed me off about him. McGreevey really resigned due to corruption in his administration, including the job for his lover. But he played it off like he was resigning because he was gay, which was a load of crap. So the message to the huge segment of Americans who don't pay attention to the news

Way to come out and immediately set your new community back several years, Jim. And I agree - good riddance.

Anthony in Nashville | January 21, 2009 1:16 PM

Adams did something that millions of gay men do every day -- chase after someone young enough to be their kid.

I know straight people do the same thing but you know the standards are different for LGBT people.

He's now something like the gay John Edwards - a good politician whose sex drive overruled his sense of propriety and messed up his career.

I don't really see the issue with the age difference. Is Beau was old enough to be drafted he's old enough to decide who he wants to date. I think that Adams' motivations were more than just sexualizing a young body, or, as another gay blogger put it, making himself feel attractive again. Intergenerational romances are common among gay men, and Adams himself is still pretty cute. I'm currently in a relationship w/ someone 19 years older than I am, and it's not a mentor/protege relationship, it's not a "creepy old dude picking on a dumb kid relationship," it's, to me, another gay male relationship that crosses a lot of age lines.

But I expect the moralizers to be out in full force on this one. We apparently have a better ability to condemn someone when they lie about a relationship that has nothing to do with their ability to perform their jobs than we do to condemn lies that lead to, I dunno, massive death.

Zoe above provides a perfect example of what too many Americans (especially in the media) fell into: Clinton lied about his affair! Oh no! But that other dude after him who lied, causing an estimated one million Iraqis to die, 3 million more to be displaced, and 4200 American soldiers to die? pish-posh.

Every time one of these sex scandals becomes big, I can't see it outside of the context of the fact that other lies pols tell are immaterial to a lot of the folks who care about the sex-related lies. Which is why I can't post about them without just pounding my keyboard in anger, so my laptop thanks you for posting about this situation first, Jason. :)

Alex:
Admittedly I often find myself in disagreement with you but this is a great analysis of exactly how this plays out and what the root of this is.

Foley was creepy because it was unwanted, and well because Foley was creepy period. The power dynamic there was a much greater factor. As someone under the aegis of government sexual harassment laws, I can say that the mayor has made himself guilty of that breach, even when it is consensual.

This showed remarkably bad judgment on Adams's part. Leave aside the same sex aspect of the story for the moment, and just look at the pertinent facts.

It is inappropriate for an adult in any kind of position of authority to have an intimate relationship with a high school student. Legalities aside, there is just too much of a power differential.

Anyone who is or hoping to be in public life has to be aware that most people would consider this to be an inappropriate relationship. Case in point is that Adams attempted to hide the relationship. So to have engaged in it anyway indicates an attitude which is usually incompatible with public service, such as that the rules don't apply to him; he doesn't have to face consequences; or that his personal desires trump any other considerations. Any of those explanations do not speak well of Adams.

As for the specific age difference, the number of years is only a portion of the issue. It is the begining age which is just as important. No one would question the propriety of a 40 year old in a personal relationship with a 64 year old. An 18 is a legal adult, but is unlikely to have the maturity of someone in their mid forties. And as some have discussed, it seems unlikely that this relationship was purely platonic until Beau hit 18.

Okay, back to the gay part. Everyone ought to realize that a sexually active gay man is seen as more threatening, especially in conjunction with minors, than other adults. Minorities who are trying to blaze new trails are served well to be "purer than Ceasar's wife". Perception being what it is, actual wrongdoing is not necessary to suffer the consequences.

There are uneducated people who believe the stereotype that gay men cannot curb their sexual appetite. I'm afraid this incident helps reinforce it. As a leader and role model of the GLBT community, it would have been preferable if Adams considered his actions more carefully. It would be a shame if a promising political future was thwarted for a fling.

On another note:

Beau Breedlove? Really?? Did his parents *expect* him to grow up to be a porn star? Honestly...

But my question then, Rory, is whether it is fair for us to expect Adams, because he is a gay man "blazing a new trail," to have to hold himself up to a higher standard than anyone else? Is it Adams' fault that society views gay men's sexuality as especially threatening and immoral? I don't really think that we should blame Adams for not living up to our homophobic society's views of what a gay man should and shouldn't do.

In my view, if anything, that makes it *more* understandable that he felt like he needed to lie about it - we're used to feeling that the way we express our sexuality, as queer people and especially as gay men, can and will be used against us, and we're used to feeling like we need to hide it (and often have practice doing exactly that). I'm not necessarily saying that it's okay that Adams lied, but I think we do him a disservice if we don't look at how the experience of homophobia played into his decision to do that.

And I agree: his name is Beau Breedlove? For REALS?

It is regretable that Adams lied but not untypical for political figures.
He had a seemingly consensual relationship with a young adult.
While the power dynamics are problematic, the two men made the choices through their own free will.
Adams ought not to resign. Let him run for reelection and see what his constituents think.

Presently, I'm in my late fifties. Just over two years ago I went to a cast party for a highly acclaimed B'way show. Like everyone else there, I was introduced to one of the young stars (who was twenty-one years old) and, like everyone else, told him how great he was and that I really enjoyed his performance.

About twenty minutes later I left the building, took five steps up the street, and sensed someone walking alongside me. Yep, you guessed it. The young star is going in the same direction as me and, so, we walk along together . . .

So, fast forward two years and we are still together. Looking back, the younger man pursued me right from the start and actively keeps the flame going. Of course, I am pleased as punch. Some of our friends know about our relationship and applaud, others snicker, and some have completely disappeared from our life.

In terms of finances, this younger guy is extremely successful, worth many times over what I could ever be. He's emotionally and intellectually sensitive, terribly sharp and funny, happens to be darn good looking in person (not just on the screen), and is one of the best friends I have ever had.

I’m not poor but in the eyes of the world I am certainly not what would be considered successful. And, although I like to think I’m not unattractive, I’m also not a raving beauty in any sense of the term. Am I smart? Don't make me laugh. Yet, even with all of my young darling’s notable successes and high degree of desirability, I continue to question the power dynamics in our relationship. At the very least, surely you can understand why I sometimes wonder what the hell is going on.

Now, my question is, what should I do? Should I just drop him entirely, or do I continue to share with him the life and love we have created together? You tell me.

Elliot -

"But my question then, Rory, is whether it is fair for us to expect Adams, because he is a gay man "blazing a new trail," to have to hold himself up to a higher standard than anyone else?"

Only if we want him to succeed in the long run as a public official. It's hard to imagine that he will advance to a higher office with this as a part of his record. Fairness isn't a consideration if there is a higher purpose. It is what it is.

"Is it Adams' fault that society views gay men's sexuality as especially threatening and immoral?"

It doesn't matter who is responsible for that view if he counts those people as his constituents and needs their votes.

"I don't really think that we should blame Adams for not living up to our homophobic society's views of what a gay man should and shouldn't do."

I'm afraid he did live up to our homophobic society's views of a gay man, and for that he is clearly responsible.

"In my view, if anything, that makes it *more* understandable that he felt like he needed to lie about it... "

I get why he lied about it; but that should have been a clue why it was a really bad idea in the first place.

"I'm not necessarily saying that it's okay that Adams lied, but I think we do him a disservice if we don't look at how the experience of homophobia played into his decision to do that."

And I'm not saying he should be pilloried for having lied, but it is definitely a mark against him when he didn't need one. It's what they call in tennis an "unforced error".