Rep. Studds, a Congressional Pioneer, Dead at 69 Former Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay man elected to Congress, dies at 69. He retired in 1997. Studds was censured by the House in 1983 after admitting an affair with a 17-year-old former page, but won re-election.
NPR logo

Rep. Studds, a Congressional Pioneer, Dead at 69

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6268492/6268493" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Rep. Studds, a Congressional Pioneer, Dead at 69

Rep. Studds, a Congressional Pioneer, Dead at 69

Rep. Studds, a Congressional Pioneer, Dead at 69

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6268492/6268493" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Former Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay man elected to Congress, dies at 69. He retired in 1997. Studds was censured by the House in 1983 after admitting an affair with a 17-year-old former page, but won re-election.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

Gary Studds, the first openly gay person to serve in the U.S. Congress, died suddenly this morning at the age of 69. The 12-term former Democratic congressman represented southeastern Massachusetts.

Most of this district depends on the ocean for its economy, and Studds was known as a champion of both fishermen and the environment. He also advocated a stronger federal response in the early days of the AIDS crisis, and later he quietly urged President Clinton to lift the ban on gays serving in the military.

Mr. Studds' name has been back in the news since revelations that former Florida Congressman Mark Foley exchanged sexually explicit instant messages with a former male page. In 1983, Studds became the first representative ever to be censured by the House for sexual misconduct after an ex-page revealed that he and Studds had had an affair when the page was just 17.

But while Foley resigned immediately, Studds acknowledged his homosexuality and took his case to the voters. In a debate before the 1984 primary, Studds was challenged by his Democratic opponent and received the support of his constituents.

(Soundbite of 1984 debate)

Unidentified Man #1: I simply would like you to explain to these people tonight, as you have refused to do for a year, why your relationship with a teenage page would be any different than a sexual relationship between a teacher and a student.

(Soundbite of jeering crowd)

Unidentified Man #2: Mr. Studds, you have 30 seconds to reply.

Representative GARY STUDDS (Democrat, Massachusetts): That's the easiest question I've ever been asked. There wasn't anything right about it. It was a damn stupid and inappropriate thing to do, and I never said anything else.

LYDEN: Studds went on to win that election and five more. He retired in 1997. Studds and his long-time partner, Dean Harrah(ph), were among the first gay couples to wed in Massachusetts. According to Harrah, the former congressman collapsed on a walk last week. Doctors diagnosed a blood clot in his lung. Studds died today in Boston.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Former Rep. Gerry Studds Dies

BOSTON (AP) -- Former U.S. Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay person elected to Congress, died early Saturday at Boston Medical Center, several days after he collapsed while walking his dog, his husband said.

Studds fell unconscious Oct. 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 center, but his condition deteriorated Friday and he died at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Hara said.

Hara, who married Studds shortly after gay marriage was legalized 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," he said.

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

In 1983, Studds acknowledged his homosexuality after a former congressional page revealed he'd had a relationship with Studds a decade earlier.

Studds was censured by the House for having sexual relations with the page. He acknowledged having sex with a 17-year-old male page in 1973 and making sexual advances to two others and admitted an error in judgment, but did not apologize.