A Pioneering Politician’s Legacy
How will Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank be remembered once he leaves Congress in early 2013?
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn described Frank as a hero to LGBT people after he formally announced on Monday, Nov. 28, that he would not seek re-election for a 17th term. Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias described Frank as one of the House’s "smartest, funniest, most passionately progressive and pragmatic member." GOProud Board Chair Chris Barron described the soon-to-be-former congressional representative on Twitter as a "total embarrassment to average gay people" who will not be missed.
Countless others have used equally unflattering and glowing adjectives to describe the cantankerous congressman, but Frank has certainly earned his place at the table of LGBT pioneers. He voluntarily came out to The Boston Globe at a time when some still advocated the quarantining of gay men to curb the spread of AIDS and the federal government denied security clearances to gays and lesbians. Nearly two decades after he survived a formal reprimand over using his congressional office to pay for 33 parking tickets that a male escort, whom he hired as an aide and personal driver had accrued, Frank helped broker the 2008 Wall Street bailout bill that brought the American economy back from the brink of collapse. He also co-sponsored the Dodd-Frank Act that expanded financial regulatory oversight and create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"His service as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee during a time of great economic upheaval made a gay man one of the most powerful people in the country and he used that power for great good," noted Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, who worked on one of Frank’s first congressional campaigns in Massachusetts in the 1980s.
For all of his flaws, Frank has certainly paved the way for more LGBT people to have a seat at the table in the halls of power. And the country is a far better place for it.