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After sixteen terms in office, Congressman Barnett "Barney" Frank has come to the end of a remarkable career as a politician. While I haven't seen eye-to-eye on everything he has done while in office, his suffer no fools gladly manner and quick wit has endeared him to me like few other politicians. He finally came out as gay in 1987 under pretty ugly circumstances. The way he handled it and survived the narrow-minded backlash made me proud and gave me hope that there would come a day when all LGBT people would become equals in the eyes of the law. The fact that he continued to win his elections as an openly gay man proved my hope founded. He has played an integral role as a leader and advocate for equality, and for that I will always owe him a debt of gratitude.
In perhaps his last interview prior to departing Congress, Barney Frank recently sat down with Michelangelo Signorile, reflecting on his career and getting in a few final parting digs. To read Signorile's article and listen to the full interview, please visit this link. It is well worth the read and well worth the listen. I have excerpted a few highlights below.
On Antonin Scalia:
I was glad that he made clear what’s been obvious, that he’s just a flat out bigot. I’d previously said he was a homophobe. And Fox and the rightwing said, ‘Oh just because he’s not for same-sex marriage? And I said, ‘No, let me be very clear. That’s not it. This is a man who has said you should go to prison for having sex.’ It was an extraordinarily abusive sentiment and it was dead wrong. And, by the way, for a guy who is supposed to be so smart, quite stupid. This young man said to him, ‘Why do you compare sodomy to murder?’ And he said, ‘Well because I have a right to say if I think something is immoral.’ Well the question wasn’t about his right. The question was, By what morality is expressing your love for someone in a physical way equivalent to killing that person? It makes it clear that the man is an unreconstructed bigot, and given that you have a bigot on the Supreme Court like that, it is useful to know.On the upcoming Supreme Court Cases:
The next time we have a Democratic House, president and Senate,if DOMA hasn’t been found unconstitutional -- which, I still believe it will be -- then it will be repealed,” Frank stated. “And you’ll be able to get a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The transgender issue -- it’s interesting to see how time speeds up. In 1972, I filed the first gay rights bill in Massachusetts history [as a state legislator] and I remember at the time encountering this sense almost of disgust and discomfort from my colleagues. They didn’t want to think about it. And over time we eroded that. Now, the transgender issue is a new issue in the sense of being raised. When we were first dealing with it even five or six years ago, we ran into this same discomfort, unease, etc. We’ve made much quicker progress there. The time on this has sped up. So I believe we are now at the point, which we weren’t at even a few years ago, where we’re we’ll be able to get the transgender legislation.And, from the wrap up in Signorile's article:
And though no one could possibly say Barney Frank wasn’t taken seriously as a member of Congress, Frank says he’s going to be even more of potent force as a pundit and commentator.While I am going to miss Barney Frank as a member of Congress, I think that I will enjoy the next phase of his life even more. An unfettered Barney Frank should prove entertaining, honest, witty, and most of all, a stick in the Conservative eye. Whatever he decides to do with his time, I will be watching closely. He certainly has an affinity for Rachel Maddow, so you can be sure he will appear on her show with relative frequency. That thought makes me happy.
“I think I’ll have more credibility,” he observed. “There’s a great cynicism of politicians today -- unduly and excessive in my judgement -- so when I say what I think now, people say, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to curry favor.’ Well, they won’t be able to say that anymore.”
So here's to you, Congressman Frank. Enjoy your retirement. I wish you happiness, I wish you good health, and above all, I wish that you continue to give 'em hell.