BOSTON – Former Rep. Gerry Studds, who became the first openly gay member of Congress when his homosexuality was exposed during a teenage page sex scandal, died early Saturday. He was 69.
Studds died at Boston Medical Center several days after he collapsed while walking his dog, his husband said. Doctors determined his loss of consciousness was due to a blood clot in his lung, Dean Hara said.
Studds regained consciousness and seemed to be improving, but his condition deteriorated Friday because of a second blood clot. The origin of the second clot was not immediately determined, said Hara, who married Studds shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004.
Hara said Studds gave courage to gay people by winning re-election after 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 Hara, 49.
Studds, a Democrat, 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 his early career, Studds was known for opposing the Vietnam War and military intervention in Central America. Studds later became an advocate for a stronger federal response to the AIDS crisis and was among the first members of Congress to endorse lifting the ban on gays serving in the military.
In 1983, Studds acknowledged his homosexuality after a 27-year-old man disclosed that he and Studds had had a sexual relationship a decade earlier when the man was a teenage congressional page.
The House of Representatives censured Studds who called the relationship with the teenage page “a very serious error in judgment.” But he did not apologize and defended the relationship as a consensual relationship with a young adult. The former page later appeared publicly with Studds in support of him.
The scandal recently resurfaced when Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned after exchanging sexually explicit instant messages with a page. Republicans accused Democrats of hypocrisy for savaging Foley while saying little about Studds at that time.