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Posts for April, 2014

Oregon’s lopsided marriage hearing

Timothy Kincaid

April 18th, 2014

There is never a foregone conclusion when it comes to court cases, but if there were it would be the case on Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.

In 2004, Oregonians voted to prohibit the legal recognition of marriage to one man and one woman. In October of 2013, two separate lawsuits were filed challenging the constitutionality of that ban, and the consolidated case will be heard on April 23 before U.S. District Judge Michael McShane.

But Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum will not be defending the ban. She believes it to be an unconstitutional violation of civil rights. Instead she filed a brief stating that, “This case presents that rare case in which there simply is no legal argument to be made in support of a state law.”

Nor will the Governor be defending the ban. Nor any other state officer. Nor any intervenor. In fact, no one at all will be there to argue on the law’s defense.

This does make it difficult for a judge to rule in the law’s favor. Without some brief to quote or some argument to accept, a justice is limited to relying on outside or third party argument, such as an amicus brief.

And plenty of amicus briefs have been filed. For example Nike and Intel and Kaiser and a bunch of other businesses filed a brief saying that the ban was bad for business. And gay groups filed briefs saying that the ban was unconstitutional. But those won’t be much use to a judge looking for a legal argument for keeping the ban. (

Opponents of gay marriage have stayed away from McShane’s court — declining, for example, to file any “friend of the court” briefs aimed at influencing his thinking. Some say there’s little reason to get involved since they don’t have standing to appeal.

However, I suppose, were a justice sufficiently driven by his own anti-gay animus he might create out of whole cloth a reason why gay people are not entitled to equal status as citizens. Despite a growing list of courts that have found for equality, from the right and the left, we know that someone like Antonin Scalia would have little hesitation to impose his religious doctrine on top the Constitution and find within the catechism what he needs to oppose equality.

Except Judge McShane is not such a judge.

Unlike the five federal judges who have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriages in other states in recent months, McShane won’t have anyone in the courtroom defending Oregon’s constitutional ban when he holds oral arguments Wednesday.

And, unlike the other judges, McShane also happens to be one of just nine openly gay members of the federal judiciary, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

There is never a foregone conclusion when it comes to court cases. But if there were…

Is Arizona a Turning Point?

Jim Burroway

February 27th, 2014

It would appear that the outcry over Arizona’s license-to-discriminate bill that was finally vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last night may have reached something of a high water mark. Major companies, business group, professional organizations, and major league sports all came out with strong statements denouncing the bill in the moments leading up to Brewer’s veto. Typical was this one from Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman:

SB 1062 would serve to create an environment where consumers would not know how they would be treated – or whether they would even be served – when they patronize a business. This bill goes against the rule that every great business subscribes to, which is that the customer is always right. It will not only be bad for customers, but also bad for local business in the state. I also believe that it would be in consumers’ interests to be made aware of businesses within the state that did engage in discriminatory behavior. Since early 2010, Yelp has hired over 650 employees in Arizona. Over the next few years, we hope to hire hundreds more. It would be unconscionable for the state to encourage discrimination against any of them.

Arizona joins three other states in putting an end to their license-to-discriminate bills in just the past twenty-four hours:

  • Sponsors of Ohio’s license-to-discriminate bill withdrew their support yesterday. Moments later, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee announced that the bill was dead.
  •  The Mississippi House of Representatives Civil Subcommittee late yesterday voted to strike almost all of the provisions of their license-to-discriminate bill, leaving only a provision adding “In God We Trust” to the state seal. This move came after the state Senate gave its unanimous approval in January.
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced yesterday that he will veto a proposed license-to-discriminate bill if it reaches his desk. Earlier that day, he had refused to address the question during an interview on MSNBC.

Over the past several weeks, license-to-discriminate bills have been defeated or withdrawn in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee, and Utah. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Similar bills are still working their way through Idaho, Missouri, South Dakota, and Georgia, where Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has announced its opposition. The Idaho bill was returned to a House committee last week, with the sponsor saying he wants to “find the right language.” In addition, there’s a push to put a similar measure on the ballot in Oregon in November.


Daddy needs a new pair of shoes

Timothy Kincaid

November 20th, 2013

And this time I think they’ll be Nike. (Portland Business Journal)

Nike Inc. has formed a PAC to support marriage equality and seeded it with $280,000 from the company and its executives.

“We are committed to diversity and inclusion and strive to treat our employees equally,” the company said in a statement. “We believe that diversity drives innovation and allows us to attract and retain world class talent. For Oregon businesses to attract and retain the best talent, we need fair and equitable laws that treat all Oregonians equally and prevent discrimination.”

This additional boost of funds shows the seriousness with which Oregon business, activist, and faith alliance have towards overturning Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Currently Oregon United for Marriage has collected 115,080 signatures of the 116,284 needed to get on the 2014 ballot (though they will need to collect a healthy margin to allow for some invalidations).

Last week the Oregon Episcopal Diocese voted overwhelmingly in favor of marriage equality, joining many ministers and churches from UCC, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Jewish and other faith groups.

Oregon Recognizes Same-Sex Marriages From Other States

Jim Burroway

October 17th, 2013

Oregon’s constitution still bears the ugly wound of discrimination thanks to a constitutional amendment that was approved by voters in 2004. But Michael Jordan, chief operating officer for the state’s Department of Administrative Services, has issued a directive to all state agencies advising them of a new policy in which the State of Oregon will now recognize same-sex marriages contracted elsewhere:

“Oregon agencies must recognize all out-of-state marriages for the purposes of administering state programs,” Jordan wrote. “That includes legal, same sex marriages performed in other states and countries.”

That means that gay couples who were legally married in other states are entitled to the same benefits in Oregon as any other married couple, said Matt Shelby, spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services. That would apply to everything from medical benefits to taxes to business licenses, he said.

A spokesman explained:

“The state of Oregon has typically recognized legal, out-of-state marriages,” said Department of Administrative Services spokesman Matt Shelby.

Because of that history, plus the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, Oregon could have been in legal trouble if it did not honor marriages legal in other states.

“Whether that’s a common-law marriage, whether that’s a same-sex marriage, whether that’s a more traditional man and woman marriage, the state of Oregon, state agencies, are going to treat you as a married couple,” he said.

Jordan’s directive came about after he sought a legal opinion from the state Attorney General’s office. Deputy Attorney General Mary Williams wrote in her opinion dated yesterday (PDF: 481KB/7 pages):

Oregon’s constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage would likely be construed as also prohibiting recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages. But such a construction would likely violate the federal constitution. …

We cannot identify any defensible state interest, much less a legitimate or compelling one, in refusing to recognize marriages performed between consenting, unrelated adults under the laws of another state — marriages that would be unquestionably accorded recognition if the spouses were of opposite sexes. Likewise, we cannot justify any legitimate (much less compelling) state interest in requiring that each marriage recognized in Oregon contain one partner of each sex; no benefit to Oregon from that limitation and no injury would result from recognizing the marriages.

And same-sex relationships are given legal recognition in Oregon, in the form of domestic-partnership registration. To defend a refusal to acknowledge marriages, the state would have to articulate a state interest in allowing partnerships but refusing to recognize marriages — and, again, we cannot point to any such interest that would pass constitutional muster at even the lowest possible level of scrutiny, rational basis review.

Because Oregon is constitutionally barred from providing same-sex marriage itself, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see an uptick in marriage applications in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland.

On Tuesday, two gay couples filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Eugene seeking to overturn the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Oregon United for Marriage is also collecting signatures to place a measure onto the November 2014 ballot asking voters to rescind the constitutional amendment.

Oregon starts petition drive to reverse state DOMA

Timothy Kincaid

July 26th, 2013

Oregon United for Marriage (yeah, yours too) hit the streets and parks today to begin the petition drive to put marriage back on the ballot next fall. (Oregon Live)

The campaign to overturn Oregon’s constitutional ban on gay marriage hits streets Friday, with organizers on a quest to gather more than 116,000 signatures by July 2014.


As early as 6 a.m., dozens of volunteers were gathering signatures at a petition booth at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. The booth is one of several being manned by more than 1,000 volunteers in cities and towns throughout the state this weekend.

Oregon kicks off marriage initiative process with high profile names

Timothy Kincaid

February 14th, 2013

Today supporters of equality in Oregon will begin gathering signatures to put an initiative on the ballot to reverse from their State Constitution the 2004 anti-gay marriage amendment. (Oregonian)

Gov. John Kitzhaber, former Gov. Barbara Roberts, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen are scheduled to attend a 3 p.m. event at Hotel Monaco in downtown Portland.

In Salem, House Speaker Tina Kotek — the first openly lesbian House speaker in the country — and Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum are scheduled to attend a 4 p.m. event at Willamette University. Both are Portland Democrats.

The mayors of Eugene and Bend are also scheduled to attend events in their respective communities this afternoon. Faith leaders are set to host a breakfast in Beaverton.

Oregon to take marriage back to the voters

Timothy Kincaid

February 11th, 2013

Some argue that it is inherently inappropriate to vote on matters of civil rights. And I understand and appreciate the logic behind that claim. But from a pragmatic point of view, absent any declaration of the unconstitutionality of state bans on marriage equality, that’s the only way that some states will become equal.

So I am delighted that activists in the state of Oregon have decided to take marriage back to the ballot box in 2014. (Oregonian)

The state’s major gay-rights group, Basic Rights Oregon, made the decision over the weekend to launch a petition drive on Monday to put a measure on the ballot that would allow legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Given the group’s resources and the issue’s high visibility, there is little doubt the group can qualify the measure for the November general election.

And the time may be right, with Oregon voters now supporting marriage. A PPP poll in December found the following:

Q20 Do you think Oregon voters should be allowed
to vote on whether they think same-sex
marriage should be legal, or not?
Voters should be allowed to…………………. 77%
They should not ……………………………………. 14%
Not sure …………………………………………………. 9%

Q21 Do you think same-sex marriage should be
allowed in Oregon, or not?
Should be allowed …………………………………. 54%
Should not………………………………………………. 40%
Not sure …………………………………………………. 5%

Oregon GOP Removes Anti-Gay Language From Party Platform

Jim Burroway

September 13th, 2011

The Oregonian reports that the state’s Republicans, who have seen their fortunes in the state slide in recent years, have removed several anti-gay planks from the party’s platform:

Wording that essentially condemned same-sex marriage and civil unions, and that stated such couples were unfit to be parents, was removed from the official party platform during a weekend convention in Bend.  “We want the public to take another look at the Republican Party and our policies,” said Greg Leo, spokesman for the state party. “It’s fair to say we’re more centrist.”

The once-dominant party has faded in Oregon. Democrats hold every statewide office and no Republican has been elected governor since 1987. The one bright spot is the Oregon House, where Republicans managed a 30-30 split with Democrats last election.

Part of the problem the Oregon GOP faced in the late 1980s is that the party became too closely associated with extremists Christian groups, most notably the Oregon Citizens Alliance, which was headed by Lon Mabon and is where Scott Lively first came into prominence. Oregon’s notorious Measure 9, which would have amended the state constitution to bar the state from using “monies or properties to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism,” proved a significant turning point. It was then that Lively first put forward the historical fiction that the Nazi party was a homosexual organization and that violent fascism is the inevitable result of gay rights. Measure 9 went down in defeat in 1992 due largely to the outrageous rhetoric from the OCA and Lively. The OCA was soon disbanded amid controversy and financial irregularities and Lively fled to California to pick up his anti-gay work again in Sacramento and Temecula. Meanwhile, the GOP, which had been among the earliest state parties to align themselves to the Christian Right, have struggled to recover from that close association.

Today, the state GOP is turning over a new leaf, largely on the strength of younger members. The latest changes were pushed through by 26-year-old Xander Almedia, described as a former College Republican president at Portland State University and now a Portland vaudevillian who works with a local band:

(Alemdia) said, “a lot of younger Republicans don’t feel as though this kind of rhetoric has any place in a small government agenda. If we want to do small government, shouldn’t we get government out of the bedroom as well?”

Language supporting marriage as between one man and one woman remains intact in the party’s platform, but that merely comports with Oregon’s constitution, he said. The national Republican Party platform contains a section that strongly supports traditional marriage and calls for a constitutional amendment that would prevent states from adopting other legal arrangements.

The Oregon GOP change “makes a strong statement,” said James Moore, political analyst at Pacific University. “The statement that it makes is they have seen the social conservative platform hasn’t really gained them many new voters.”

Sad About Marriage, Not About Murder

Jim Burroway

June 3rd, 2011

Jeff Kropf, the Oregon state director of the conservative Americans for Prosperity, was sad when he learned about the shooting death of Debbie Lee Higbee Benton, 54, of Gladsone County Oregon. But it wasn’t the murder that made him sad:

You see, it was their marriage makes him sad. But now that their marriage was ended with a bullet, maybe Knopf can cheer up now.

[Hat tip: Goldy @Slog]

Couple recognition, state by state

Timothy Kincaid

December 1st, 2010

Upon the governor’s signature, Illinois will become the second state that is currently offering civil unions to same-sex couples. The status of the various recognition mechanisms is as follows:

on the same terms as heterosexual marriage – 5.1% of US Population:

New Hampshire
District of Columbia

Civil Unions
– a rights except the name – 7.1% of US Population:

New Jersey

Domestic Partnerships will all the rights except the name – 16.3% of US Population


Limited recognition of same-sex couples – 6.2% of US Population

Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits
Colorado – Reciprocal Benefits
Wisconsin – Domestic Partnerships
Maine – Domestic Partnerships
Maryland – Domestic Partnerships

In addition, the states of Maryland and New York (6.4% of US Population) will give full recognition to same-sex marriages conducted where legal. Rhode Island may possibly do so also (it’s a bit uncertain) and offers unregistered Domestic Partnerships with a scant handful of rights.

Also, there are dozens of cities offer some form of recognition and protection for same-sex couples.

Nearly half of all Americans live where there is some recognition of same-sex couples

Timothy Kincaid

March 3rd, 2010

US Map

About 5.1% of Americans (15.5 million) live in areas in which same-sex marriages are legal and equal to opposite-sex marriages: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia.

Another 58.4 million (19.2%) live in states which have either civil unions or domestic partnerships that offer all the rights and protections of marriage without the name: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington. To that we can add two more states (New York and Maryland) in which the local state government will honor marriage occurring elsewhere and we have a total of 32.6% of Americans living with the rights and responsibilities of marriage available to their family.

There are also five states which recognize same-sex couples and offer them limited itemized rights. They are Hawaii, Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, and Rhode Island and they add an additional 14.2 million Americans (4.7%).

But recognition does not stop there. There are dozens more counties and cities who provide what local recognition and benefits as they can, adding another 14.2 million local residents (4.7% of Americans) who can appreciate that their city officials see them as a couple. Local municipalities include the populations of Salt Lake City, UT; Phoeniz AZ; Tuscon AZ; Duluth, MN; Minneapolis, MN; St. Paul, MN; Lawrence, KS; Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; St. Lewis, MO; Ann Arbor, MI; Cook County, IL (Chicago); Urbana, IL; Cleveland, OH; Cleveland Heights, OH; Toledo, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Harrisburg, PA; El Paso, TX; Travis County, TX (Austin); Eureka Springs, AK; New Orleans, LA; Carrboro, NC; Chapel Hill, NC; Clarke County, GA (Athens); Fulton County, GA (Atlanta); Broward County, FL (Fort Lauderdale); Key West, FL; Miami-Dade County, FL; and West Palm Beach, FL.

In total about 140 million Americans – about 46% of the nation’s population – live where there is some form of official notice of same-sex couples. So NOM can proclaim “victory” when they have an election in California or Maine, but this ball is rolling and the momentum is in the direction of recognition.

Oregon Advocates Mull Repealing Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2009

In 2004, Oregon voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In 2007, the legislature approved a law allowing limited domestic partnerships, a measure that survived a petition challenge. Now Basic Rights Oregon and Freedom to Marry are testing the waters to see whether another ballot measure to rescind the 2004 amendment is feasible. If so, they’re thinking about mounting a campaign no earlier than 2012.

Portland Mayor Cleared of Wrongdoing

Jim Burroway

June 23rd, 2009

Portland Mayor Sam Adams, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city, has been cleared of wrongdoing by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger. The Attorney General’s six-month investigation looked into charges that Adams broke the law by engaging in sexual relations with Beau Breedlove before Breedlove turned 18. Kroger concluded that Breedlove lacked credibility as a witness and that no other corroborating witnesses came forward. Investigators interviewed 57 witness as part of their investigation and concluded:

Here, there are serious questions about the credibility of Breedlove’s account, due to his prior inconsistent statements, the lack of corroborating witnesses or evidence, his attempt to gain personally from matters related to his involvement with Adams and his prior criminal record,” the report states.

“Accordingly, we have concluded there is insufficient evidence to charge, let alone convict, Adams with illegal sexual contact with a minor.”

The report questioned Breedlove’s credibility, saying that he had sought media attention as far back as December 2007. The report found that Breedlove has since benefited financially as a result of his story, citing the cover story on Breedlove in the May issue of Unzipped magazine.

The Attorney General’s report also looked into two other allegations of wrongdoing. One allegation surrounded the hiring of a Portland Mercuryreporter by Adams’ staff after that reporter contacted Adams about rumors of a relationship with Breedlove. The report found that there was no credible evidence that Adams hired the reporter to cover up the affair. The report also looked into an allegation of official misconduct for misuse of government resources, but found no evidence to support those charges either.

Adams still faces a recall effort. Nevada Senator John Ensign however, does not.

New Hampshire Would be the Sixth What, Exactly?

Timothy Kincaid

May 8th, 2009

New Hampshire could be the sixth gay marriage something-or-other, but finding the language to fit is not a straight-forward task. Considering the methods by which states have reached (and retreated from) marriage rights, putting them in order depends on what one is measuring.

The order in which states have granted recognition to same sex couples

1. District of Columbia 1992 (blocked by Congress until 2002)
2. Hawaii 1997
3. California 1999
4. Vermont 1999
5. Connecticut 2005
6. New Jersey 2004
7. Maine 2004
8. New Hampshire 2007
9. Washington 2007
10. Oregon 2007
11. Maryland 2008
12. Iowa 2009
13. Colorado 2009

The order in which courts have found that states must provide marriage and/or all its rights and benefits to same-sex couples:

1. Hawaii 1993/1997 (reversed by Constitutional amendment)
2. Vermont 1999
3. Massachusetts 2003
4. New Jersey 2006
5. California 2008 (perhaps reversed by Constitutional amendment)
6. Connecticut 2008
7. Iowa 2009

The order in which states provided virtually all of the same benefits as marriage

1. Vermont 1999
2. California 2003 (with subsequent minor adjustments to fix differences)
3. Massachusetts 2003
4. Connecticut 2005
5. District of Columbia 2006 (with adjustment in 2008)
6. New Jersey 2006
7. New Hampshire 2007
8. Oregon 2007
9. Washington 2009
10. Maine 2009

The order in which legal marriages were first performed

1. Massachusetts – 5/17/2004
2. Iowa – 8/31/2007 (only one)
3. California – 6/16/2008
4. Connecticut – 11/4/2008
5. Vermont – 9/1/2009 (Scheduled)
6. Maine – around 9/14/2009 (Scheduled)

The order in which continuous legal marriages began to be offered

1. Massachusetts – 5/17/2004
2. Connecticut – 11/4/2008
3. Iowa – 4/27/09
4. Vermont – 9/1/2009 (Scheduled)
5. Maine – around 9/14/2009 (Scheduled)

And should New Hampshire’s bill be signed, it will be sixth.

Sam Adams and the Double Standard: Part 2

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

January 24th, 2009

There’s a lot of confusion over Portland Mayor Sam Adams’ tryst with Beau Breedlove, the intern who Adams admitted to having a sexual relationship with. It’s time to bust some of these myths.

Myth: Because Breedlove was an intern, Adams abused his position of authority when he entered into a sexual relationship with Breedlove.

Fact: Beau Breedlove was a legislative intern in Eugene, not a Portland city intern. They met when Breedlove was interning in the Oregon House for state Rep. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer). Adams did not hold a position of professional authority over Breedlove.

Myth: Breedlove was just a 17-year-old boy.

Fact: According to Adams’ admission, Breedlove was an 18-year-old man when they initiated their sexual affair. At eighteen, Breedlove was old enough to sign contracts, join the army and go to war, and be tried as an adult for any crimes he might feel like committing.

Breedlove, because he is a legal, consenting adult, bears equal responsibility for the affair. What’s more, he appears to have an affinity for older men. Mark Merkle, 39, was Breedlove’s boyfriend for two years until last August.

This was a man, not a boy. Yet we have all sorts of people — gay and straight, Democratic and Republican — screaming for Mayor Adam’s resignation because he lied about having had perfectly legal sex with a perfectly legal consenting adult.

Hold that thought while we look at another set of myths swirling around another politician of note:

Myth: Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) admitted to have had perfectly illegal sex with a prostitute.

Fact: Oh, sorry. That was true. Vitter broke the law, but he didn’t admit to it until the statute of limitations had passed.

Myth: Sen. Vitter apologized to the Republican caucus in the Senate, and received a standing ovation.

Fact: Oh yeah. That part’s true also. Even though Vitter broke the law — something that Adams has apparently not done — he got a standing ovation.

But hey, Vitter’s admission of having engaged in an illegal sex act did come in at number five of Time magazine’s top ten awkward moments.

Let’s re-cap: Illegal sex? Awkward. Legal sex? Give him the heave-ho.

And what about the lying part?

Let’s cross the political aisle and consider Bill Clinton. After all, he lied under oath about a sexual encounter with an intern who really was his subordinate. But Clinton defenders said, well yeah, what do you expect? After all, his sex life is private, they said. He didn’t want his wife to find out, they said. He was protecting his daughter, they said. Who wouldn’t lie under those circumstances, they said. Besides, it was all a political witch hunt, they said.

That rallying cry that went “When Clinton lied, nobody died”? Gee, why don’t I see a similar call for perspective here among progressives?

Adams didn’t lie under oath. Instead, he told a very stupid lie about a very private matter that was none of anyone’s business while running for political office. Goodness! That’s never happened before!

So let’s re-cap again. Lies about gay sex with a consenting adult you have no authority over? Even liberals will call for your resignation. Lies about straight sex under oath with an intern you actually have authority over? You not only get to stay in office, but when your term finally reaches its natural conclusion, you get to enjoy the highest approval ratings of any president in history.

Nice presidential library you got there, Bill.

Hundreds of people have rallied in front of city hall to support their beleaguered mayor. Another rally is scheduled for Tuesday at noon.

No Sex Please, We’re Gay

Guest Commentary

Jack Drescher, MD

January 23rd, 2009

Jack Drescher, MD, is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. Dr. Drescher is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and presently serves as a Consultant to APA’s Committee on Public Affairs. He is past Chair of APA’s Committee on GLB Issues. Dr. Drescher is Author of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man (The Analytic Press) and is Emeritus Editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health.

The city of Portland, Oregon is being rocked by a political sex scandal. This one has many of the familiar ingredients of the genre: a sexual relationship between a politician and an intern, a newspaper ferreting out the story, a lying elected official and an ineffective cover up an affair, calls to come clean, a belated admission of culpability, and a sense that the public trust has once again been betrayed.

In this case, the sex involves Portland’s newly elected Mayor Sam Adams and an eighteen-year-old male intern. And the scandal is stirring debate in Portland’s LGBT community, pitting those who believe the Mayor should be forgiven his transgressions and those clamoring for his resignation.

Gay people calling for a gay politician’s head for having sex? This seems a far cry from the attitudes that prevailed within the fledgling gay liberation movement that emerged after the 1969 Stonewall riots.  In the 1970s, gay liberation was seen as a metaphor for other forms of liberation:  third world countries were to be liberated from colonial oppression; African-Americans and other people of color were to be liberated from white oppression; women were to be liberated from male domination; gays and lesbians were to be freed from heterosexual oppression.

At the time, freedom from heterosexual oppression was also taken to mean opposing conventional, heterosexual beliefs about what constituted acceptable forms of sexuality.  Gay writers like John Rechy idealized and glamorized the sexual outlaws who sexually engaged with anonymous and multiple partners.  It was a time when calling someone “promiscuous” could reasonably be interpreted as envy of that person’s sexual prowess.

This early movement called for decriminalizing all consensual sexual activities between adults.  Some would even argue for legalizing sexual activities between adults and minors.  Sexual liberation meant there could be no bad sex as long as the sex was voluntary.

How times have changed.  Today, the LGBT civil rights movement has shifted its focus from a radical sexual liberation to more conservative issues, like the right to marry, the right to raise children, the right to serve in the military, and access to health care.  The Stonewall’s bottle-throwing drag queens could never have imagined that the movement they fired up would one day bring us Log Cabin Republicans or openly gay evangelical Christians.

How did this happen?  Among other reasons, the sexual outlaws of the 1970s did not envision the devastation of the AIDS epidemic that emerged in the 1980s.   And although the gay liberation movement did not bring about a radical rethinking of acceptable forms of open sexual expression among the heterosexual majority, it did create what might be called a gay consciousness in the general culture.  The generations who came after the sexual liberationists would shape their gay and lesbian identities to suit their own needs.

Thus it appears that while those early sexual transgressors may have paved the way for Mayor Adams to win his election as an openly gay man, the cost of mainstream acceptance has required giving up the more outre elements of sexual liberation.  He should not be surprised if the LGBT community does not support him.  Today, there are millions of kids being raised by gay and lesbian parents.  And just like straight parents, they don’t want politicians coming on to their kids.

Sam Adams and the Double Standard

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

January 21st, 2009

In 2005, Sam Adams, then a Portland, Oregon, city councilman, met 17-year-old Beau Breedlove. Adams was 42 at the time. Adams admits now that after Breedlove turned 18, they had a brief romantic liaison. When news of the liaison hit the wires, prominent voices began calling for Adams’ resignation.

In 1992, Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian with a hit television series, met and began dating 17-year-old high school student Shoshanna Lonstein. Seinfeld was 38 at the time. The following year, Seinfeld hit number three in the Neilson ratings, and went to number one in 1994. Seinfeld and Lonstein broke up in 1997. He later met Jessica Sklar and began dating her — even though she had just returned from a three-week honeymoon in Italy when they met. Through it all, Americans voted with their remotes and Seinfeld continued to top the Neilson ratings.

The Portland Tribune thinks Adams should resign because:

We don’t believe the public makes much of a distinction when it comes to a man over 40 having sex with either a 17-year-old or an 18-year-old. And it makes no difference if the teenager is male or female – it’s sexual opportunism, pure and simple.

While we may question the wisdom of Adams taking up with someone so much younger than himself, it should not be the cause of scandal itself. But we know that in the double-standards which apply to gays and lesbians, this is scandalous. In fact, merely being gay is scandalous in many quarters — even in relatively liberal city of Los Angeles. But what Adams did is no more scandalous than the behavior of America’s most beloved comedian of the last decade.

The Portland Oregonian thinks Adams should resign because he lied about the affair:

Adams said this week that he lied because he did not think voters would believe him if he said that his relationship with Breedlove was not illegal. Perhaps he was right, but it was not renewed faith in the judgment of Portlanders that prompted the mayor to come clean with them. It was simply that he was being pressed by the Willamette Week newspaper, and the lie was not sustainable on any of several levels.

So now, Portlanders are left with a mayor whose election was built on a lie.

I hadn’t followed the election, so I don’t know to what extent the mayor’s election was “built on a lie.” Nevertheless, I’m very disappointed in his deplorable lie.

It was about as deplorable as the one President Bill Clinton told about his sexual affair — under oath! Should Adams resign? I seem to recall that Clinton didn’t resign. Not only that, but Clinton left office with a 73% approval rating — the highest of any departing president since polling began seventy years earlier.

But as we all know, a gay man’s affair with an 18-year-old is much, much worse than a straight man’s affair with a 17-year-old. And a lie told by a gay man about his affair is way worse than a lie told by a straight man — under oath! Straight men are forgivable — maybe even adorable in their failings. Gay men aren’t.

That is, if you accept the premise that double standards are acceptable.

Hang in there Mayor. Yes, I’m very disappointed in you. You screwed up (no pun intended) and that screw-up reflects badly on all of us (another double standard, yes, but there it is). But if you’re going to resign, save it for something really important.

I’m disappointed, Sam Adams

Timothy Kincaid

January 20th, 2009

Sam Adams is the newly elected mayor of Portland, Oregon. He is the first openly gay mayor of a major US city. He is also coming under public criticism for a lack of judgment.

In 2005, Sam met a young man with the unlikely name of Beau Breedlove. Beau was 17. The two became friendly and, after Beau turned 18 they had a brief romantic liaison. Sam was 42 and a city councilman.

Now I’m not faulting Sam for finding Beau alluring. Many a relationship has successfully weathered age disparity. And the attentions of a handsome young man can do wonders to the ego when you’ve crossed the 40 divide. And while 18 is awfully young, Beau was also an adult.

But Sam lied. He told the media, the voters, and anyone who would listen that their friendship was simply that of a mentor. And Adams won the election in November May by a landslide.

But surely the Monica Lewinsky scandal has shown us that we can forgive our politicians for their lustful peccadilloes… just don’t lie to us. You can offer “no comment”, you can demand the privacy of your personal life, you can imply that the media is simply prurient, you can “defend the honor of this aide and all aides against besmirchment and insinuation”, but don’t lie.

I’m disappointed in you, Sam Adams.

Gay Mayor Sworn In

Jim Burroway

January 3rd, 2009

Sam Adams, who was elected to replace Portland Oregon’s outgoing mayor Tom Potter, was sworn into office on New Years Day. About 40 people were present, including Adams’ partner Peter Zuckerman. Portland is now the largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor.

Indian Tribe Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage

Timothy Kincaid

August 20th, 2008

The Coquille, a Native American tribe in southern Oregon have become the first in the United States to decide to recognize same-sex marriage (The Oregonian).

As a federally recognized sovereign nation, the tribe is not bound by Oregon’s constitution. And on May 8, the tribe adopted a law that recognizes same-sex marriage and extends to gay and lesbian couples all the tribal benefits of marriage.

And while the state cannot interfere in inter-tribal matters, the planned marriage between Kitzen and Jeni Branting could play a part in a larger legal question.

Because the Coquille is federally recognized, a marriage “occurring within the tribe would actually be federally recognized,” Gilley said. And that would violate the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that says the federal government “may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.”

As a result, the marriage between the Brantings – who share the same last name after changing it to reflect their commitment – could become a test case if challenged by the federal government. Gilley said it could test the boundaries of tribal independence nationwide. .

“This could be a test of sovereignty,” he said.

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