Gerry Studds, openly gay congressman, dead at 69

Former United States Republican Gerry Studds, the first openly gay person elected to Congress, died early on Saturday at Boston Medical Centre, several days after he collapsed while walking his dog, his husband said. He was 69.

Studds fell unconscious October 3 because of what doctors later determined was a blood clot in his lung, Dean Hara said.

Studds regained consciousness, remained in the hospital, and seemed to be improving. He was scheduled to be transferred to a rehabilitation centre, but his condition deteriorated on Friday and he died at about 1.30am on October 14, Hara said.

Hara, who married Studds shortly after gay marriage was legalised in Massachusetts in 2004, said Studds was a pioneer who gave courage to gay people everywhere by winning re-election after publicly acknowledging his homosexuality.

“He gave people of his generation, or my generation, of future generations, the courage to do whatever they wanted to do,” said Harra (49).

Studds was first elected in 1972 and represented Cape Cod, and the Islands, New Bedford, and the South Shore of Massachusetts for 12 Congressional terms.
He retired from Congress in 1997.

In 1983, Studds acknowledged his homosexuality after a congressional aide revealed he had had a relationship with Studds a decade earlier, when the aide was 17. Studds was censured for sexual misconduct by the House, then went home to his constituents to answer questions in a series of public meetings and interviews

with the press.

Studds defended the relationship as a consensual relationship with a young adult.

The aide later appeared publicly with Studds in support of him. The scandal recently resurfaced when former Republican Republican Mark Foley resigned after exchanging sexually explicit instant messages with a congressional aide.

Republicans accused Democrats of hypocrisy for savaging Foley, but saying little about Studds at that time.

Hara said Studds was never ashamed of that relationship.

“This young man knew what he was doing,” Hara said. “He was at [Studds’s] side.”

Studds left Congress and became a lobbyist for the fishing industry and environmental causes.

In 1996, Congress named the 2 180-square-kilometre Gerry E Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary after him in recognition of his work protecting the marine environment. - Sapa-AP

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