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Rep. John Murtha, a fierce critic of the Iraq war whose support for gay rights evolved in recent years, died on Monday at a Virginia hospital, a spokesman has confirmed. He was 77.
The Pennsylvania Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee was hospitalized in intensive care at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington due to complications related to gall bladder removal surgery last month. He died shortly after 1 p.m., according to congressional aides.
First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974, Murtha had a mixed voting record on LGBT issues, though he moved in recent years toward more support for gay rights legislation. Last year he received a 70% rating from the Human Rights Campaign's Congressional Scorecard for the 110th Congress (January 2007 to January 2009).
During that term Murtha voted for expanding hate-crimes protections to include sexual orientation and for the House version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have banned workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (the bill died in the Senate and has not received a floor vote in either house for the current congressional term). In 2006, Murtha voted against the antigay federal marriage amendment.
A Vietnam veteran, Murtha was not a cosponsor of "don't ask, don't tell" repeal legislation introduced in the House by fellow Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Patrick Murphy.
Murtha is survived by his wife, Joyce; his sons, John and Patrick; his daughter, Donna; and three grandchildren. Memorial services have not yet been announced.