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First openly-gay senate president steps down after his husband is accused of sexual assault

Katharine Swindells December 10, 2017

Rosenberg (L) and husband Hefner

Stanley C. Rosenberg, Massachusetts senate president, has stepped down from his position, after four men alleged that his husband, Bryon Hefner, assaulted them.

The men say that over a period of three years Hefner groped their genitals, and one said Hefner forcibly kissed him.

They said they felt unable to come forward because of Rosenberg’s position, but were inspired by the recent #metoo campaign.

“My heart goes out to anyone who may have been hurt, and I am committed to helping anyone who has been harmed,” he said at a press conference on Monday.

“This has been the most difficult time in my political life, and in my personal life.”

This week TIME named all those who came forward about sexual harassment and assault, saying #metoo, their person of the year

68-year-old Rosenberg has temporarily vacated his position, while the Senate investigates if Hefner interfered with Senate affairs, which Rosenberg denies.

He will remain in his position as a rank-and-file senator.

Rosenberg said part of his stepping down was to make sure victims felt able to speak out saying he wanted to make sure the investigation “is fully independent and credible, and that anyone who wishes to come forward will feel confident that there will be no retaliation.”

Some victims say Rosenberg was nearby when the incidents occurred, though so far there is no evidence that Rosenberg knew about the assaults.

A Democrat, Rosenberg became the first openly gay senate president in 2015, and the highest-ranking elected LGBTQ official in Massachusetts’ history. He is an LGBT rights advocate and was a key player in the equal marriage battle.

Voters in his hometown of Amherst have come forward in his defence, saying he shouldn’t have to resign because of his spouse’s actions.

“If it were him being accused, it would be different, but it’s against his husband,” local Steve Chojnacki told the Boston Globe.

“Should he really step down if he hasn’t committed a crime?”

Others say that, although it isn’t his fault, he did the right thing by stepping down, showing his commitment to justice for the victims.

“His stepping aside is a clear indication of his commitment to the people of Amherst, and the Senate as a whole,” Douglas Slaughter, chairman of the Amherst Board of Selectmen, said.

Majority leader Harriette L. Chandler, a close ally of Rosenberg’s, will serve as interim president until the Senate investigation concludes.

“The past four days have been so turbulent, so tragic, so surprising, and so sad,” Chandler said.

“I wish I could look at this wonderful election you have given me with joy, rather than the way I feel. It truly isn’t a time of celebration for me.”

More: Assault, homophobic, Massachusetts, metoo, Senate, US

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