Wednesday, October 18, 2006

 

Former Congressman Gerry Studds died last week, the victim of a blood clot in his lung. The first out-of-the-closet gay member of Congress, Studds had been in the news of late, as defenders of Mark Foley, the Republican chickenhawk who was playing at cybersex with House pages, pointed out that Studds had himself been in a similar situation back in the 1980s and had been voted back into office several times afterwards. But Studds didn’t come from the party of homophobia, and therein lies a difference. What killed Foley’s career was not pedophilia, but hypocrisy.

If the Foley story is noteworthy primarily because it has helped to reveal what everyone but the Christian right has known since Roy Cohn was an aide to Senator Joe McCarthy, that there are plenty of gay Republicans, then the most interesting thing about the 1,490 stories I was able to find Sunday on Google’s news tracker concerning Studds is that over 400 were reprints of either the Associated Press or New York Times version of his obit, both of which referred to Dean Hara as Studds’ husband.

On the other hand, Headline News, CNN’s peripatetic network for the ADHD audience, called Hara his “partner,” which is true enough in the general sense, but fails to note that Studds & Hara were in fact married in Massachusetts, a state that permits gays to do so. Whereas over 400 newspapers could care less about such a distinction, Headline News cared enough to write story in a manner that didn’t ask & didn’t tell. The news is that, at least with regards to obits, this Victorian & ultimately homophobic approach is in the minority now.

So how does change come, finally, in the world? In part, it’s just in the ordinariness of a noun phrase, as at the end of this opening sentence from Damien Cave’s piece in the Times:

Gerry E. Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress and a demanding advocate for New England fishermen and for gay rights, died early Saturday at Boston University Medical Center, his husband said.

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