A CITY ON A HILL | L'Affaire Murray and its precedents

More sex-abuse accusations keep emerging, depicting a Mayor Ed Murray far different from the one most of us have known.

The public Ed Murray has long been seen as an upright, clean-cut, man who just happens to have a husband instead of a wife. He's exemplified the upscale respectability gays and lesbians have achieved, at least here in the "blue" cities.

But the four (so far) now-adult accusers claim there had once been a very different private Ed Murray They tell of a man who regularly did what many gay men did in the '70s and early '80s—promiscuous recreational sex, often on a paid basis, often with teens.

My friend Geov Parrish already wrote in these pages how, at the time Murray's accused of having done all this, the whole gay-male scene was still "underground" enough that such activities were often considered usual, even "normal." 

The Monastery, an (officially) no-booze, all-night dance club in an old downtown church, had become notorious as a male adult/teen pick up spot; so much so that not only was it forced to close in 1985, the city banned most all-ages music and dance shows for the next 17 years.

During and even before those years, there were prominent Seattleites whose closeted "down low" sex lives were privately spoken of but never written about. 

And in more recent decades, several Northwest politicians were caught up in straight and gay sex scandals. 

The late Gov. Mike Lowry chose not to run for re-election while he battled (and eventually settled) charges of groping and catcalling a woman on his staff. 

Charges of sexual harassment and even assault helped to end the political careers of U.S. Senators Brock Adams (D-WA) and Bob Packwood (R-OR).

In 2005, then-Spokane mayor Jim West was caught up in a "sting operation" conducted by the Spokesman-Review newspaper. During the resulting brouhaha, several men came forward to claim West had abused them as boys two decades earlier. West, who'd had a record of supporting anti-gay bills in the State Legislature before becoming mayor, admitted to past encounters with adult men but not with boys. He was hounded out of office in a recall election, and committed suicide the following year

I've heard scandal accusations against past Seattle mayors that were never proven. There's every reason to be skeptical about these ones. (Yes, even as more accusations and accusers appear.) The validity of the claims should be decided in the courts, not in the media.

The people making these accusations don't have a political agenda, as far as we know at this point. (They say they don't.) But it's certainly plausible that hard-right forces would try to "get" an out-and-proud gay man running a "sanctuary city" at the heart of the resistance.

It's also a historic smear against gay men to stereotype them as all pederasts, dating back pretty much forever. 

But, as we've learned in recent years from the likes of West and from certain religious figures, there are men who abuse boys. Some of these men have positions of authority.

In any event, a media circus about these kinds of claims can trigger awful memories among abuse survivors If you're one, please be careful to yourself.

Indeed, that's one of the points made by two people who've publicly asked Murray to resign, including City Council candidate Jon Grant and LGBTQ activist Danni Askini. They say Murray's defense tactics to date, including casting aspersions on the character of his accusers, has already damaged his own image irreperably, and also jeopardizes abuse victims striving to have their stories heard and believed. 


I can't leave for now without expressing my condolences to the local news media, who pretty much unanimously did their best to whip up fear of a big destructive May Day riot, and then were left with their cameras and helicopters sticking out when the protests proved to be adult and peaceful. 

After all, in 2017 it's the right-wing federal regime, amd more importantly some of its most loyal supporters, who are going around making rude spectacles of themselves and screaming demonizing remarks about their foes.

It's the job of the resistance, in part, to not be like that; to show, by example, hopes for a more accepting and respectful society. Where they go low, we go high.