October 20, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 42
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First openly Gay congressman dies at 69
First openly Gay congressman dies at 69
by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

Former Congressman Gerry E. Studds, the first openly Gay man to hold the position, died on Saturday after suffering from complications related to vascular disease. He was 69.

First elected in 1972, Studds served 12 terms in the House of Representatives until his retirement in 1996. In addition to his time in Congress, he worked at the State Department, as an aide to a Senator and in the White House during the Kennedy Administration.

Studds lived a private life in recent years. He made his home in Boston, where he lived with his husband, Dean T. Hara, and his dog, Bonnie. Hara and Studds married in 2004, a week after marriages between same-sex couples became legal in Massachusetts.

In a written statement, Hara said the couple lived a "quiet life after Gerry's distinguished career in Congress" and that the pair had "traveled the globe, and, of course, raised our dog, Bonnie."

Studds publicly admitted his sexual orientation in 1983 after a former House page, then 27-years-old, said that he had a sexual relationship with the Congressman when he was just 17. The House censured Studds for sexual misconduct.

The matter became political fodder in recent weeks, when Republicans accused the Democrats of hypocrisy for their criticisms of the handling of Florida Republican Mark Foley's inappropriate relations with House pages.

During his time in Congress, Studds sponsored legislations to expand funding for AIDS research, fought for landmark environmental legislation and an end to discrimination against Gays in the military. In honor of his environmental work, Congress designated a large ocean area between Cape Ann and Cape Cod the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

"Gerry Studds understood that the greatest contribution he could make to his community was to do an extraordinary job, and that his why he was resoundingly re-elected time after time until he chose to retire," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a written statement. "the first openly gay member of Congress, Gerry Studds was a pioneer. And one of the many lessons he left is that one can lead an open and authentic life and do good. Gerry was one of the first to understand the fear and inequity faced by gay and lesbian service members and he worked tirelessly on their behalf.

"To a younger generation who did not know Gerry Studds, we have an obligation to tell a story of courage, hard work and remarkable oratory whether delivered on behalf of the fisheries or the GLBT community."

Studds was born in Mineola, N.Y. He received a bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1959 and a master's in 1961. He is survived by his brother, Colin, and his sister, Gaynor Steward.
Killing gays is OK, says Muslim Imam - Manchester Imam defends execution of gay people
Manchester, England - 20 October 2006

Manchester's leading Imam has confirmed that he thinks the execution of sexually active gay men is justified. Mr. Arshad Misbahi, who is based at the Manchester Central Mosque, confirmed his views in a conversation to Dr John Casson, a local psychotherapist.

Dr Casson said: "I asked him if the execution of gay Muslims in Iran and Iraq was an acceptable punishment in Sharia law, or the result of culture, not religion. He told me that in a true Islamic state, such punishments were part of Islam: if the person had had a trial, at which four witnesses testified that they had seen the actual homosexual acts."

"I asked him what would be the British Muslim view? He repeated that in an Islamic state these punishments were justified. They might result in the deaths of thousands but if this deterred millions from having sex, and spreading disease, then it was worthwhile to protect the wider community."

"I checked again that this was not a matter of tradition, culture or local prejudice. 'No,' he said, 'It is part of the central tenets of Islam: that sex outside marriage is forbidden; this is stated in the Koran and the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had stated that these punishments were due to such behaviours.'"

"He told me that no Muslim would have spoken to him as I had done - they would have been too afraid, ashamed or inhibited: he admired my courage and openness."

Commenting on Imam Arshad Misbahi's views, Dr John Casson said:

"I support the human rights of all people peacefully to practice their religion, including the right of Muslim women to wear the veil if they choose. Equally gay men and women must enjoy the right to be themselves without the fear of being beaten, killed or condemned by homophobic religious people. These condemnatory attitudes have an adverse psychological impact on lesbians and gay men, especially lesbian and gay Muslims."

Gay and human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, of the gay rights group OutRage!, added: "It is disturbing that some British imams are endorsing the execution of gay and lesbian Muslims.

"Imam Arshad Misbahi's homophobic attitudes give comfort and succour to queer-bashers. They encourage conflict and disharmony between Manchester's large gay and Muslim communities.

"Muslim and gay people know the pain of prejudice and discrimination. We should be working together to challenge homophobia and Islamophobia. I hope liberal Muslims will speak out in defence of the human rights of lesbians and gay men," said Mr Tatchell.

Notes to editors

In July 2005, two gay teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari, aged 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were executed in Mashhad, Iran. They had been kept in prison for 14 months and given 228 lashes. They are two of hundreds, possibly thousands, of gay people who have been flogged, jailed, tortured and executed in Iran.

Dr John Casson has been a therapist in adult mental health for over 21 years, 11 of which have been in the British NHS. He is now in private practice and trains psychodramatists in the Northern School of Psychodrama. His doctoral research (1996-2002) was with people who hear voices (auditory hallucinations).

The meeting between Mr. Arshad Misbahi and Dr John Casson took place on Wednesday 11th October 2006 at the Central Mosque, Upper Park Road, Victoria Park, Manchester. "My motivation for this meeting was to encourage a dialogue on lesbian and gay issues with a representative of the Muslim community," said Dr Casson.

For more information contact

Imam Arshad Misbahi 0161 224 4119

Dr John Casson 01457 877 161

Peter Tatchell 020 7403 1790

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