First openly gay congressman dead at 69

The first openly gay congressman, Gerry Studds, died early Saturday morning at 69. I have to confess I don’t remember his time in office but I was saddened to hear of his passing. I also felt guilty for wanting to giggle that the first out congressman had to be named Studds and his age the puerile joke number 69. But as I read the New York Times article I started to become squeamish about more than my own inappropriate laughter.

Studds had his own Foley-like scandal that surfaced over 20 years ago.

But in a 1970s world without instant messaging Studds didn’t type flirt, he actually had an affair with a 17 year old page. The scandal broke 10 years after the affair, and yet Studds was reelected the next year. I’m glad that the early 80s saw the first gay congressman, and that something like this was uncovered. But it also gives me shame. And its unfortunate that the first out congressman had to be one such as this. I’m certainly willing to debate that someone who is 17 may be old enough to make their own relationship decisions, however, it is clearly an abuse of power and position for a politician to become involved with an underage page during or near their service in Washington. And while I realize that Republicans have tried to counter the present Foley scandal with this much older one, I’m actually surprised that it hasn’t made a louder noise.

Perhaps Democrats are starting to be able to spin words and cover up difficult realities as well as their opponents…whom I’ve both criticized and envied for this ability.

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