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Sex scandal divides Portland and its gay community

PORTLAND — 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."

Portland's progressive reputation is based on its dedication to eco-friendly buildings, its large network of bike paths, an expanding mass transit system and the city's welcoming attitude toward gays and lesbians, which was reflected in Adams' easy victory in last year's election.

Adams took office on Jan. 1, making Portland the largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor. But the community's image is taking a beating over the sex scandal.

It 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 Tuesday news conference, 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.

Since then, 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 Thursday that it has not taken a stand.

Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who defended Adams when the rumor first surfaced last year, said Thursday that a "large volume" of e-mail to his office was in favor of Adams' resignation.

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 "Mayor's Winter Gala" to the "Winter Gala" 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 The Associated Press 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.

Adams has gone into seclusion, and he did not return phone calls from the AP.

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger agreed to conduct an investigation into whether Adams committed a crime. City commissioners, the police chief and the local district attorney asked for the probe.

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.

Another commissioner, Dan Saltzman, said Adams "deserves a shot at redemption."

Oregon is no stranger to sex scandals involving public officials.

Sen. Bob Packwood resigned in 1995 amid allegations he made unwanted sexual advances to female employees and colleagues.

In 2004, the reputation of highly respected former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt was shattered by revelations in Willamette Week that he had sex with an underage girl in the 1970s, when he was Portland mayor.

In 2006, Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth was demoted over revelations that he had a sexual relationship with a police department clerk. The clerk released X-rated e-mails written by the chief.