The Democratic president of the Massachusetts state Senate has relinquished his role amid allegations his husband engaged in sexual misconduct by attempting to grant political favors in exchange for gay sex acts.
The Bay State’s Senate president Stanley Rosenberg, 68, said he will step aside from his leadership role temporarily given an investigation into accusations by four men of sexual misconduct by his same-sex husband, Bryon Hefner, 30.
“I believe taking a leave of absence from the Senate Presidency during the investigation is in the best interest of the Senate,” Rosenberg said in a statement. “I want to ensure that the investigation is fully independent and credible, and that anyone who wishes to come forward will feel confident that there will be no retaliation.”
Rosenberg is stepping aside after initially stating he would only recuse himself from proceedings related to the allegations against Hefner, reports Fox News. He said Hefner would be entering an alcohol dependency treatment program.
The state Senate elected Democratic Majority Leader Harriette Chandler to take over as the acting president.
Hefner’s case has been referred to the Senate Ethics Committee. The probe will focus on Rosenberg’s knowledge of Hefner’s behavior and if Hefner actually had influence on key decisions in the Senate because of his marriage to Rosenberg.
A spokeswoman of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Rosenberg made the right decision to step aside, reports Fox News.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) said, “The charges against the Senate president’s husband are disgusting and the people who have leveled these charges have a right to be heard and to be respected and protected.”
The Boston Globe reported that Hefner allegedly “sexually assaulted and harassed” four men over the past few years.
“Though three of the alleged incidents took place when Rosenberg was mere feet away, the Globe found no evidence that the Senate president knew about the assaults,” the newspaper said.
The Globe said it interviewed 20 people who know Hefner or his accusers. The report noted an alleged incident in 2015 when Hefner – who at the time was engaged to Rosenberg – appeared at the doorway of a lobbyist’s office as he was about to leave for the evening, and grabbed his genitals.
The man alleged Hefner asked him to “have some fun with him, telling him Rosenberg wouldn’t mind, that Hefner and the Senate president were a team on Beacon Hill, and that they would take care of him,” reported the Globe.
The lobbyist said earlier in the evening Hefner had bragged to him about his clout in state politics and about his influence with Rosenberg.
“Hefner left the man in no doubt that he was asking for sexual favors in return for help on Beacon Hill,” the report stated.
According to the Globe, Hefner’s three other accusers also said he grabbed their genitals and one said Hefner kissed him against his will.
“I was shocked to learn of these anonymous and hurtful allegations,” said Hefner in a statement reportedly released by his attorney. “To my knowledge, no one has complained to me or any political or governmental authority about these allegations which are now surfacing years afterward. As one can imagine, it is incredibly difficult to respond to allegations by unnamed and unidentified individuals that involve an extended period of time, particularly in the current environment.”
The news report stated a couple of the alleged victims were worried about reporting the incidents for fear of “hurting Rosenberg, whose progressive priorities they admire.”
In December 2014, the Globe had interviewed Rosenberg over reports that Hefner had mocked outgoing state Senate president Therese Murray, and had boasted to other senators about his influence with Rosenberg on key decisions.
Rosenberg then told the newspaper he had learned of some of Hefner’s behavior by other senators and had admonished his partner.
“Very clearly, very specifically, he’s not involved in making any of the decisions,” Rosenberg said. “All personnel decisions, all the chairmanships, are going though the normal internal processes.”