Gerry Studds, 69; First Openly Gay Member of Congress
Former Rep. Gerry Studds, who became the first openly gay member of Congress when his homosexuality was exposed during a sex scandal with a teenage page, died Saturday. He was 69.
Studds died at Boston Medical Center several days after falling unconscious from a blood clot in a lung, said his husband, Dean Hara.
Hara, who married Studds shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, said Studds gave gay people courage by winning reelection after publicly acknowledging his homosexuality.
In 1983, a 27-year-old man stepped forward to disclose that he and Studds had had a sexual relationship a decade earlier when he was a teenage congressional page. The House of Representatives censured Studds, who revealed on the House floor that he was gay.
At the time, Studds called the relationship with the teenage page a “very serious error in judgment.” But Studds did not apologize and defended it as consensual relationship with a young adult. The page later appeared publicly with Studds in support of him.
First elected in 1972, he quickly became known for his work to protect the marine environment and fishing industry. Voters in his conservative district continued to reelect him until he retired in 1997 to become a lobbyist for the fishing industry and environmental causes.
The scandal recently resurfaced after former Republican Rep. Mark Foley resigned after exchanging sexually explicit e-mails with a page. Republicans have accused Democrats of hypocrisy for savaging Foley but saying little about Studds at the time.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said in a statement, “His work on behalf of our fishing industry and the protection of our waters has guided the fishing industry into the future and ensured that generations to come will have the opportunity to love and learn from the sea.”
Studds was born May 12, 1937, in Mineola, N.Y. He graduated from Yale University in 1961 with a master’s degree in history, then spent two years as a foreign service officer with the State Department.
He worked in the Kennedy administration as an executive assistant, then spent 1964 as legislative assistant to Sen. Harrison Williams (D-N.J.), who was later convicted in the Abscam bribery scandal.
In addition to Hara, Studds is survived by a brother and sister.