Congress’ first openly gay man dies

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The country’s first Congressman to publicly acknowledge that he was gay has died age 69.

Gerry Studds passed away last weekend at a Boston hospital after collapsing earlier this month.

His doctors at Boston Medical Centrr determined that he suffered from a blood clot in his lung, Studds’ husband Dean Hara told the Associated Press.

After showing improvement, doctors planned to transfer him to a rehabilitation centrr, but his condition worsened on Friday. Hara told the AP that Studds died at 1:30 am on Saturday.

Studds was the first member of Congress to acknowledge he was gay, he was censured by the US House of Representatives in 1983 for his relationship with the male page.

At the time, Studds called the relationship with the teenage page, which included a trip to Europe, “a very serious error in judgment.” But he did not apologise and defended the relationship as a consensual relationship with a young adult. The former page later appeared publicly with Studds in support of him. Studds was re-elected and went on to serve a total of 12 terms. He did not seek re-election in 1996.

That scandal has been compared to the one currently surrounding former Representative Mark Foley, a Florida Republican who resigned earlier this month amid news accounts of lurid Internet communications sent to former pages.

According to Reuters, Studds was an outspoken advocate for the fishing industry in Congress and was hailed by his constituents for his work establishing a limit for foreign fishing vessels 200 miles from the coast. After leaving Congress, he became a lobbyist for the fishing industry and environmental causes.

“His work on behalf of our fishing industry and the protection of our waters has guided the fishing industry into the future and ensured that generations to come will have the opportunity to love and learn from the sea,” Senator Edward Kennedy, “He was a steward of the oceans.”

Hara, who married Studds shortly after gay marriage was legalised in Massachusetts in 2004, told the AP that 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, reports the AP.

In 1996, Congress named the 842-square mile Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary after him in recognition of his work protecting the marine environment.

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