Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams says that as a young gay person, he never would have imagined that he would be elected mayor.
“Hopefully, it’s a sign that we’ve broken through another glass ceiling,” Adams said. “We still have other glass ceilings to go, but hopefully people are getting encouragement to pursue their dreams.”
Adams spoke to The Washington Blade recently after becoming the city’s mayor-elect in his election last month. The election makes him the first openly gay mayor of a top 30 U.S. city.
The article discusses Adams’ experience coming out to his family and community in his home state of Montana. The Blade reports:
The experiences spurred Adams to conceal details of his personal life when he left college to work in politics.
“I just didn’t talk about my private life,” he said. “I really feared if I came out early in my career, I would be pigeon-holed as sort of the gay guy.”
During this time, Adams said, he maintained a relationship with a “very understanding” partner, but stayed “in the closet” until 1995, when a reporter outed him.
The article made for some awkwardness in the office, Adams said, but benefited him in the long run.
“It was one of the best things that could have happened to me,” he said. “I didn’t have to go through that torturous process of sitting people down and saying, ‘I’m gay.’”
He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2002 and was elected to the Portland City Council in 2004.
Specializing in transportation and environmental issues, Adams found Portlanders were more interested in discussing their broken streets than his sexual orientation.
“Potholes aren’t gay potholes or straight potholes,” he said. “They’re just potholes.”
Adams said that public attitude held during his mayoral campaign this spring and helped him avoid being labeled as the gay candidate or having to frequently address his sexual orientation.
“It did not play a significant role — and that’s the way it should be,” he said. “I’m a public servant who’s gay. I’m not a gay public servant.”
That doesn’t mean Adams avoids championing gay issues. He said he’s proud to have helped pass Portland’s “equal benefits ordinance,” which requires contractors that offer spousal benefits to married couples to offer the same benefits to domestic partners.
“I’m a strong advocate for LGBT civil rights issues,” he said. “But at the same time, I want people to treat me in the same way that they treat a heterosexual person or a bisexual person or a transgender person. And I treat them the same way.”