In the current issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, I have an editorial on the plight of Aaron and Melissa Klein—two Oregonians who used to own a bakery in a Portland suburb, who were run out of business and recently assessed a $135,000 fine for politely declining to provide a cake for a gay wedding. For background, please do read the whole thing. However, there's a pretty alarming lesson here about the selective nature of progressive tolerance that the editorial only touches on.
To summarize things a bit more, 18 months after the Kleins's business was shuttered, an administrative judge in Oregon slapped them with a ludicrous fine based on absurd and unproven claims of emotional damage for the couple who were denied their cake. Since the fine was so outrageous, supporters of the Kleins started to raise money to support the couple on the website GoFundMe and in a few hours had raised $109,000. Then, GoFundMe pulled the campaign. This was because another Portland baker, one Lisa Watson, organized a campaign to pressure GoFundMe to drop the fundraiser. Ms. Watson did quite a bit of crowing about her success in getting GoFundMe to pull the fundraiser. On her Facebook page she wrote, "This business has been found GUILTY OF DISCRIMINATION and is being allowed to fundraise to pay their penalty. . . . The amount of money they have raised in a matter of a few hours by thousands of anonymous cowards is disgusting.” In fact, the day my editorial was published GoFundMe revised their policies to allow the company more latitude to shut down fundraisers that were politically inconvienent.
Now with all that in mind, let's revisit the story of Sam Adams, who was mayor of Portland until 2012. He was the first openly gay mayor of a major city. However, Adams was mired in controversy, which I wrote about a couple years back in a WEEKLY STANDARD feature, "Insufferable Portland":
In 2005, Adams, who was then 42, met a 17-year-old boy interning in the state legislature with the unfortunate name of Beau Breedlove. The official version of events is that Adams was mentoring Breedlove. They were known to go out to dinner alone, and Adams even attended Breedlove’s 18th-birthday festivities so Breedlove could “show his family that it’s possible to be gay, successful, and happy,” according to the Oregonian.
Fast-forward to 2007, when Adams is running for mayor. The Democratic primary heats up, and one of his opponents accuses Adams of having an inappropriate relationship with Breedlove. The denunciations of the charge come fast and furious. Adams’s surrogates suggest that homophobia is driving this assault on his character. Adams wins the primary and is elected mayor in 2008 with 58 percent of the vote.
In January 2009, just as Willamette Week is about to break the story, Adams finally admits that, yes, he had a sexual relationship with Breedlove and, yes, he lied about it aggressively. Adams insists the sexual relationship didn’t begin until the summer of 2005, after he presented himself to Breedlove’s family as a role model at the 18th-birthday party in June.
“I didn’t believe that given the way that rumors were being spread—about whether I had broken the law by having sex with a minor—that people would believe me,” said Adams, explaining that he had no choice but to lie. Despite this self-serving admission, the state attorney general cleared him of wrongdoing. During the investigation, not a single witness was put under oath.
Adams has since survived two recall attempts, and lately has had a recurring role on Portlandia playing the assistant to the mayor—who in turn is played by Twin Peaks actor Kyle MacLachlan. Portlandia even had a series of sketches about the mayor hiding a dark secret. It turned out that the mayor was playing bass in a reggae band, something that would really outrage his indie-rock-loving constituents.