Gerry Eastman Studds



Gerry Eastman Studds (May 12, 1937 – October 14, 2006) (pronounced /ˈɡɛri/) was an American Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts who served from 1973 until 1997. He was the first openly gay national politician in the U.S. In 1983 he was censured by the House of Representatives after he admitted to having had an affair with a 17-year-old page in 1973.


He attended Yale University, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall, and from which he received a bachelor's degree in history in 1959 and a master's degree in 1961. Studds made his first run for Congress in 1970, but lost to the incumbent Republican representative, Hastings Keith, in a close election. Studds was a central figure in the 1983 Congressional page sex scandal, when he and Representative Dan Crane were censured by the House of Representatives for separate sexual relationships with minors — in Studds' case, a 1973 sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male congressional page.


During the course of the House Ethics Committee's investigation, Studds publicly acknowledged his homosexuality, a disclosure that, according to a Washington Post article, "apparently was not news to many of his constituents." Studds stated in an address to the House, "It is not a simple task for any of us to meet adequately the obligations of either public or private life, let alone both, but these challenges are made substantially more complex when one is, as I am, both an elected public official and gay." He acknowledged that it had been inappropriate to engage in a relationship with a subordinate, and said his actions represented "a very serious error in judgment."


The House voted to censure Studds, on July 20, 1983, by a vote of 420-3. Studds received two standing ovations from supporters in his home district at his first town meeting following his congressional censure. Studds was re-elected to the House six more times after the 1983 censure. He fought for many issues, including environmental and maritime issues, same-sex marriage, AIDS funding, and civil rights, particularly for gay men and lesbians. After retiring from Congress in 1997, Studds worked as a lobbyist for the fishing industry.  Studds and partner Dean T. Hara (his companion since 1991) were married in Boston on May 24, 2004; one week after same-sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts.


Studds died on October 14, 2006 in Boston, at age 69, several days after suffering a pulmonary embolism. Due to the federal ban on same-sex marriage, Hara was not eligible, upon Studds' death, to receive the pension provided to surviving spouses of former members of Congress.