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Late Gerry
Studds, first openly gay congressman, memorialized

Late Gerry
Studds, first openly gay congressman, memorialized

Friends of the nation's first openly gay congressman remembered him Saturday as a man who first went to Washington, D.C., to end the Vietnam War and protect the environment and then became a champion of gay rights. The packed memorial service for former U.S. representative Gerry Studds featured his favorite choral music and stories--some bittersweet, some humorous--about his keen devotion to Cape Cod and his skill at balancing the oft-competing interests of commercial fishermen in his congressional district with environmentalists concerned about dwindling ocean resources. Studds died at age 69 on October 14, 11 days after collapsing with a blood clot while walking his dog in Boston. In 1983, Studds became the first congressman to acknowledge his sexual orientation, after a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old male page 10 years earlier became public. Studds called the relationship ''a serious error in judgment'' and was censured by Congress, but he defended his action as a consensual connection with a young adult. Congressman Barney Frank, a fellow Democrat from Studd's home state of Massachusetts and who went public with his own homosexuality four years after Studds, told the crowd of 300 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston that Studds inspired thousands of gays and lesbians by acknowledging his sexuality without apology. ''The important thing about what Gerry did was the reaction to it. And the reaction to it was that there was no reaction,'' Frank said, adding that Studds ''helped Americans understand that they really aren't homophobic, they just thought they were supposed to be.'' Shortly after the Massachusetts supreme judicial court legalized same-sex marriage in the state in 2004, Studds married his longtime partner, Dean Hara. (David Weber, AP)

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