The First Openly Gay Member of Congress Was From Massachusetts
The first openly gay member of the Congress of the United States was from Massachusetts - and it wasn't Barney Frank.
The first openly gay member of Congress was Rep. Gerry Eastman Studds, a Democrat.
Studds was born in Mineola, Nassau County, New York, on May 12, 1937.
According to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Studds attended public schools in Cohasset and Derby Line Academy in Hingham, Massachusets. He obtained a B.A. and a Master of Arts Teaching degree from Yale and taught in Concord, New Hampshire.
Studds served as a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department and as a member of President John F. Kennedy's White House staff, among other accomplishments.
Rep. Studds was a delegate to the tumultuous Democrat National Convention in Chicago in 1968.
In 1972, Studds was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served a district that included the City of New Bedford until his retirement in 1997.
On June 20, 1983, the House of Representatives censured Studds for personal misconduct with a House page. It was then that Studds told his colleagues and constituents that he was gay.
Despite the censure, Studds returned to New Bedford and walked in the annual Feast of the Blessed Sacrament Parade, where he was greeted with cheers from the thousands gathered along the parade route.
Studds was chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee and was instrumental in passing and enforcing the 200-mile fishing zone known as the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which greatly benefited the New Bedford Fishing Industry.
Studds died on October 14, 2006, in Boston. He was 69 years old.
Democrat Rep. Barney Frank, who at 47 years old on Memorial Day 1987, became the first member of Congress to voluntarily "come out" as gay. Through redistricting, Frank's district would come to include New Bedford, and for a time, a portion of Fall River.