Gerry Studds, 1st Openly Gay Congressman, Dies at 69

Gerry Studds, whose name has been in the news a lot lately because of parallels with the Mark Foley scandal, died this morning at the age of 69.

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. He was 69.

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,” said Harra, 49.


In 1983, Studds acknowledged his homosexuality after the page revealed he’d had a relationship with Studds a decade earlier, when the page was 17. Studds was censured for sexual misconduct by the House, then went home to his constituents to answer questions in a series of public meetings and interviews with the press.

Studds defended the relationship as a consensual relationship with a young adult. The page later appeared publicly with Studds in support of him. The scandal recently resurfaced when former Republican Rep. Mark Foley resigned after exchanging sexually explicit instant messages with a page. Republicans accused Democrats of hypocrisy for savaging Foley, but saying little about Studds at that time.

Hara said Studds was never ashamed of the relationship with the page. “This young man knew what he was doing,” Hara said. “He was at (Studds’) side.”

Ah, yes, a fine role model. It’s also amusing that he took credit for being “openly” gay when he was outed by virtue of his misconduct.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    Well, this is the first time I’ve learned any details about Studds, and there is obviously a big difference between having a relationship with a 17-year-old and sending icky e-mails to lots of 17-year-olds whom you barely know.

  2. Len says:

    Given the times, I’d say he was a damn fine role model. Remember 1983? Reagan was president, the AIDS (gay cancer) backlash, etc.

    That the young man stood by him and he was able to go back to his district and get reelected is amazing.

    I’m glad you find the whole thing “amusing.” There are many who find it rather inspiring.

  3. Mark says:

    If Karl Rove were a Democrat, this would be one hell of a conspiracy!

  4. Chance says:

    What I find amusing Len, is how big a hypocrite you are. The guy buggered a minor and only got censured..and to you this is okay because it was consensual? But it’s NOT okay to IM someone with lewd suggestions? How do you know it wasn’t consensual IMing? Either way, IMing nasties and banging homosexual minors isn’t even in the same fricking LEAGUE.

    Lemme ask you this Len: Had the young page in question now stood up and said he was a willing participant, would you still be all pissy? Would you still be calling for blood? Hell yes you would. Unless it was Chuck Schumer that got caught, then it would admirable again.

  5. floyd says:

    not knowing the man’s age, i was horrified to hear of the untimely demise of congressman studds.after reading the headline, i had mistakenly surmised that the poor soul had died a most terrible death from my great relief, the ensueing article removed that awful image from my mind.