Remembering Studds: Former Massachusetts Congressman Gerry Studds Shocked the Nation in 1983 When He Came out amid a Sex Scandal Involving an Underage Male Page. Then He Quietly Became an Inspiration to Gays and Lesbians Everywhere. (IN MEMORIAM)

Article excerpt

As a congressman from Massachusetts, Gerry Studds was famous for keeping a low profile. But that's hard to do when you're being censured by Congress for having a consensual relationship with a 17-year-old male page.

Studds, who became the nation's first openly gay congressperson after coming out on the floor of the House in 1983, died October 14 at Boston University Medical Center with his husband, Dean Hara, at his side. He had been living happily in retirement in Boston's predominantly gay South End neighborhood but had to be hospitalized after he collapsed while walking his English springer spaniel, Bonnie, 11 days earlier. He was 69.

"For 15 years Gerry and I enjoyed a life filled with love, family, and friends," Hara tells The Advocate. "I always will be grateful to Gerry for the life we had together."

Even after his dramatic coming-out, Studds tried hard to avoid the spotlight. But the spotlight recently found him once again as the media drew comparisons between his page scandal and the one currently surrounding former Florida congressman Mark Foley. "The difference with Gerry was that others [including Foley] who had problems or were censured said they were drunk or had some excuse. Not Gerry," says gay congressman Barney Frank, who still represents a Massachusetts district adjacent to Studds's old one. "He gave a lot of gay men courage. He was not only the first member of Congress to come out, but he survived."

Indeed, Studds was reelected after the scandal, serving for a total of 24 years before his retirement from Congress in 1997. Kate Dyer, a longtime friend who served as Studds's legislative assistant from 1986 to 1991, recalls working on the issue of gays in the military when the ABC show 20/20 came for an interview. …


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