Mayor Sam Adams
I admit that my inauguration high Tuesday morning was leavened by the Oregonian headline announcing that Mayor Sam Adams had admitted both sex with an eighteen year-old, and having asked the eighteen year-old to lie about it. I didn't even tell my wife about the headline because I didn't want to bum her shimmer on such a momentous morning, but she spied it on her own soon enough.
While I was out on a two day book tour, Portland was apparently roiling in debate as Sam Adams murmured the immortal lyrics, "Shall I stay or shall I go?" and I arrived back Thursday to continuing media coverage.
Historically, as a safety queen, feminist and mom-of-three, I have been the first to denounce anything that smells of exploitation of youth. I believe that there should be an age of consent, and that people should abide by it. And having been molested myself, plus having a good guy friend in high school who came out at fifteen and had many relationships with adult men*, I know all about "grooming" by predatory adults.
And this is nothing like that. If, as Sam Adams claims and Beau Breedlove confirms, Beau was eighteen when they "had sex" (if it was a eighteen year-old girl involved the press would at least call it "an affair" if it was consensual), then it was legal, if somewhat icky to me as a mom. Stupid for a politician to do, but not a crime. It's not as if Mayor Adams is a troll--he's a handsome, charming man (almost) anyone could get the hots for.
The issue is the lying, and asking Beau Breedlove to lie. But here's the deal--if he hadn't lied, I don't believe he could have been elected. Should he have been elected? Absolutely. Should he have thrown his political ambitions under the bus by outing that relationship? Questionable. Should he be asked to be a more perfect person than any other politician in history? No. And that is largely where we are; public glbtq figures are asked to be the squeaky-clean face of gay people, with nary a slip or slip-up showing. Is that fair? No. Is it reality? Yes. Should we cave to that and demand that Mayor Sam Adams resign because he made a flawed choice about a human action unrelated to his ability as mayor? No.
Sam Adams has much more to offer the city than a role as a scapegoat. Statistically, an enormous percentage of politicians must be lying about their private lives--they just didn't get caught. If I were Beau Breedlove's mom, I wouldn't like it; I might even walk down to the mayor's office and give him a piece of my mind about age gaps and appropriateness. But I wouldn't want him to leave office because he and my son had gotten together a couple years before, and didn't want the world to know.
*My dear friend might disagree with me about whether his relationships were appropriate or not; I can't ask him, because he died of AIDS in his early thirties.