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First Openly Gay Seattle Mayor Resigns Amid Sexual Abuse Allegations


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has resigned effective 5 p.m. Wednesday amid allegations from five men that Murray had sexually abused them as teenagers.

Four of these allegations came to light this spring. While Murray denied there was any truth to the accusations, he decided not to run for a second term. He contended the allegations were an effort to target him for his “record as a gay-rights champion,” according to the Seattle Times. But apparently the burden of this fifth allegation proved too heavy to carry as mayor.

Murray, 62, has been the mayor of Seattle since 2013, also the year he married Michael Shiosaki, shortly after gay marriage was legalized in Washington state. Murray maintains his innocence but said, “It is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our city government to conduct the public’s business.”

This latest addition to the sexual abuse scandal comes from his cousin, Joseph Dyer, 54. The Seattle Times reports that Dyer was just 13 when Murray came to stay with Dyer’s family in New York in the mid-1970s. Dyer alleges Murray, then in his early 20s, repeatedly “forced him into sex when the two shared a bedroom” for the duration of a year. Dyer told the Seattle Times, “There would be times when I would fake sleeping because I didn’t want him touching me.”

Buried Allegations of Abuse from the 1980s

A previous accuser, Jeff Simpson, says Murray abused him as a foster child in Murray’s home. Murray took Simpson in after counseling him at a group home for troubled children in Portland, Oregon. The Seattle Times unearthed Department of Human Services documents, previously thought to have been destroyed, that detail the allegations of abuse beginning in 1980, when Simpson was 13, and lasting about three years. Simpson alleges Murray would sometimes pay him in money or drugs for sex.

In a 1984 assessment, CPS caseworker Judy Butler wrote, “In the professional judgement of this caseworker who has interviewed numerous children of all ages and of all levels of emotional disturbance regarding sexual abuse, Jeff Simpson has been sexually abused by Edward Murray.”

Murray notes the Multnomah County prosecutor never brought charges. But the Seattle Times reports Simpson’s troubled personality led to this decision, not any dishonesty from him.

Deputy District Attorney Mary Tomlinson wrote that they could not be sure “to meet the high burden of proof” of a criminal case, and that “Jeff’s emotional instability, history of manipulative behavior and the fact that he has again run away and made himself unavailable” forced the decision not to prosecute.

Nevertheless, Simpson, who considered suing Murray while he was still in the state legislature in 2008, says he is glad Murray has finally resigned. “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, you know what? God is good. When you’re doing the right thing and don’t quit before the miracle, God takes care of stuff. It’s just on his time,” he told the newspaper.

Lloyd Anderson, who also met Murray as a teenager at a Portland group home and alleged Murray paid him for sex, told the newspaper, “I feel victory, but saddened that it required another victim to come forward for him to resign. I wonder how many other victims are out there.”

Council Members Backed Murray Until Just This Week

Only two of Seattle’s council members, Kshama Sawant and M. Lorena Gonzalez, called for Murray’s resignation before this week. Sawant said the majority of the council failed to show leadership by not pushing Murray out, and that, “Establishment politicians and political operatives do not show courage on an ordinary basis, so this is yet another example.”

In contrast to four council members who refused to call for the mayor’s ousting, the Seattle Human Rights Commission and Seattle LGBTQ Commission joined Sawant and Gonzalez over the summer in calling for Murray’s resignation.

In a letter dated July 24, Julia Ricciardi, co-chair of the commission, requested Murray’s resignation on the commission’s behalf. Noting that Murray was the first openly gay mayor of Seattle, she says that call was not made lightly: “Due to allegations and mounting evidence that you have repeatedly engaged in sexual abuse of minors, we believe that you should no longer serve as the leader of the City of Seattle.”

Acknowledging Murray’s dismissal of the accusations as “right-wing” and “anti-gay,” Ricciardi rejected Murray’s claim that this is a “monolithic issue of homophobia,” calling it “divisive and damaging,” saying his attempts to avoid accountability and “erase the experiences of survivors of sexual abuse is silencing, manipulative, and morally repugnant.”

Murray’s term as mayor was set to end November 24, when the results of the mayoral election are certified. Voters will choose between mayoral candidates planner Cary Moon and U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan on November 7. The Seattle Times reports that Council President Bruce Harrell will serve as mayor and decide shortly whether to continue as acting mayor past the election.

Another alleged victim of sexual abuse, Devlon Heckard, said he would refile his suit against Murray. “We need to continue on,” he said. “He needs to see all of us, all his victims.”

Among Murray’s efforts as mayor were a transgender restroom mandate and the $15 minimum wage. He has been widely regarded as a champion for gay rights over the course of his career. The former mayor has been involved in politics most of his adult life, but it’s unclear where he goes from here, having lost the confidence of the public and key organizations who supported his agenda.