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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