Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

The First Openly-Gay Congressman

9 May

This Thursday would have been the 74th birthday of the first openly-gay federal politician. Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts was my Congressman growing up and I can proudly say that both my mother and my aunt took a major part in getting Gerry elected.

When he was first elected in 1972, he was not out of the closet. It wasn’t until a scandal outed Gerry, that he admitted publicly to being gay. Gerry was censured by Congress for having a sexual relationship with 17 year-old page Dean Hara. He fought to avoid a hearing so as to avoid outing young Hara. But instead of abandoning his post, like many outed politicians do, Gerry was re-elected six more times, until he retired in 1997 after serving the country for 25 years. He fought for many issues, including environmental and maritime issues, same-sex marriage, AIDS funding, and civil rights, particularly for gays and lesbians.

Following his retirement, Gerry continued to lobby for the fishing industry – one of the primary industries of his constituents in Massachusetts.

Gerry Studds and his husband Dean Hara

Gerry defended himself regarding the scandal by saying that he was in a consensual relationship with the the young man. In 2004, one week after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, my aunt got a call from Gerry inviting her to his wedding. Gerry was marrying his partner of 25+ years, Dean Hara. Two years later, Gerry passed away following a pulmonary embolism. Due to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, Dean was not eligible to receive the pension provided to surviving spouses of former members of Congress.

Openly Gay Man Elected to Public Office

8 Nov

Photo (c) Danny Nicoletta

On this day 33 years ago, after several unsuccessful attempts, the first gay person in US history was elected to a public office.

On November 8th, 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Most of us have heard about Harvey and many of us saw the incredible Academy Award-Winning Film from 2008. And many of us had no idea who he was before that film, but now we know a little more. Harvey’s murderer Dan White, was also elected to office that same day.

20 years to the day after Harvey won his office, Bill Clinton became the first sitting US President to address the Gay & Lesbian Community directly in a fundraising speech.

We spend so much time getting frustrated over how far we have to go, but we ask that you take a look at where we’ve been and how quickly we have moved forward. We have come this far because those before us have talked about who they are. Harvey Milk spoke clearly about who he was and the fact that we had to come out to create change. That truth remains. 33 years later. Talk About Equality.

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