Oregon’s First Lady Cylvia Hayes has been the subject of investigative reporting by Willamette Week and this afternoon issued a statement acknowledging an earlier “marriage of convenience.”
Seventeen years ago I made a serious mistake by committing an illegal act when I married a person so that he could retain residency in the United States. It was a marriage of convenience. He needed help and I needed financial support.
We were both living in Washington. I was attending Evergreen State College, and we were introduced by mutual acquaintances. This was a difficult and unstable period in my life. I want to be clear today – I was associating with the wrong people. I was struggling to put myself through college and was offered money in exchange for marrying a young person who had a chance to get a college degree himself if he were able to remain in the United States.
We met only a handful of times. We never lived together. I have not had any contact with him since the divorce finalized in 2002.
It was wrong then and it is wrong now and I am here today to accept the consequences, some of which will be life changing. And I cannot predict what direction this will go.
In the few years after this bad decision I completed my degree, got my feet underneath me and established my home and career in Oregon. I became an active and engaged civic volunteer, community member and I became active politically.
My decision to marry illegally felt very, very distant and far removed from the life I was building. I was ashamed and embarrassed. Therefore I did not share this information even with John once we met and started dating.
This is the most painful part for me. John Kitzhaber deserved to know the history of the person he was forming a relationship with. The fact that I did not disclose this to him meant that he has learned about this in the most public and unpleasant way. This is my greatest sorrow in this difficult situation.
I apologize deeply for my actions and omissions, first and foremost to John, the person I love and respect above all others. I also apologize to my friends, family and colleagues who have trusted and supported me. And to Oregonians, I deeply regret not being right up front about the fact that I had made a serious mistake. I owe you all an apology.
The work that I do on behalf of our environment and trying to make people’s lives better is incredibly important to me — it’s the focal point of my life. I will continue to do my best in that arena going forward.
But for the time being, there are more important issues. I need to take some personal time to reflect and address this difficult situation and to focus on my relationship with John.