Out of the House

The Importance of Being Frank: Why We’ll Miss Barney

Now that Barney Frank is retiring from Congress, who can we turn to for bitchy comments? Frank is the only member of Congress who could deliver All-About-Eve” caliber dialogue amid a sea of Caddyshack wannabes.

But it’s more than the bitchy comments that we will miss.  Of course, there’s the pioneer aspect. Frank was the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out, in 1987, at a time when it was daring (and politically risky) to do so. Doing so proved that not every gay man looked like he stepped from the pages of GQ.

But more than that was Frank’s political savvy. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the passage of hate crimes legislation and the fight for marriage equality all owe a lot (and in some cases most) to Frank.  Whether you agreed with his decisions or not—and in the case of ENDA, with it’s transgendered omission, many did not—he knew what was possible in a politically complicated environment. He also knew how to deflect homophobia deftly, as in the time when he dismissed then-Rep. Dick Armey’s calling him “Barney Fag.”

What Frank understood better than just about all of his peers was the business of legislating. He has a deep appreciation of the law-making process and of the institution of Congress, if not all of its inmates. His love of the system would have been a ticket to the top, if he were straight. When Frank came out, Tip O’Neill, then Speaker of the House, said Frank could have been the first Jewish Speaker, but that was out of the question now.

Apparently, the lavender ceiling only cracks so much. In addition to Frank’s well-known disdain for fools, this bit of history may also contribute to Frank’s ongoing swipes at Newt Gingrich, the faux-intellectual who did become Speaker of the House.

Faced with a tough reelection battle in a newly redrawn district, Frank decided to opt out of an election run after 30 years in Congress. You know things have really gotten bad in Congress when Frank complains it’s too partisan. Frank is one of the Democrats’ most reliable bulldogs. But he also has managed to cross party lines, forging working partnerships with Henry Hyde and Ron Paul.

Frank has had his less-than-sterling moments, of course. It’s never great when your boyfriend is running an escort service out of your house, although when you come out later in life, mistakes someone in their 20s might make look a lot worse. And his political partisanship could trump gay principle. He has always defended President Obama’s actions on gay rights, even when Obama could have used a little nudge.

Probably the worst example was when Frank stumped for John Silber, the Democratic candidate for governor in 1990, despite Silber’s well-polished reputation for homophobia. Frank always seems to believe that any Democrat is better than any Republican. While that may be increasingly true as the GOP lurches further and further right, it hasn’t always been so.

Despite the economiums from gay groups, Frank was often been critical of their tactics, calling them out for being politically naive (and for not agreeing with him). He criticized the Millenium March in 2000 and HRC’s contributions to Republicans—you disagreed with Frank at your own peril.

So despite all his flaws, we will miss Barney. He may well be the smartest man in Congress (a low bar, we know), and no one else is likely to say what everyone else is really thinking. Agree with him or not, you have to respect him. He may ever return the favor.

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  • chink change

    It’s a sad day for America.

  • canuck

    I will miss him, and I am not even American!

  • the crustybastard

    No, Mr. Gallagher, I don’t have to respect Barney Frank, and I don’t.

    Barney is a partisan bully and gay quisling who got us nowhere, slow. Even worse, he’s one of the political “lifers” who made Congress the irredeemable cesspit of dipshittery it’s become. And he — of all people — complains Congress is “too partisan”?

    That’s less evidence of peerless intelligence than utter self-delusion.

    If you’re impressed by Barney Frank, you’re easily impressed.

  • bagooka

    I’d date Mr. Frank any day of the week!

  • bagooka

    @bagooka: Excuse me, by date, I mean I’d rip his clothes off any day of the week.

  • Henry

    I’m glad for your detailed, informative article, John. I think I am only one of the many Queerty readers who would be happy to see you write stories more often.

  • Amy

    No, screw Barney Frank. I am only sad that he is not leaving his office in disgrace. He was a long-time anti-transgender activist. He is responsible for repeatedly arguing AGAINST transgender inclusion in ENDA, and against transgender public accommodations. WE DO NOT EVER NEED ANY MORE DICKS LIKE HIM, AND WE SURELY DO NOT NEED ANYONE TO CELEBRATE HIM.

  • WillBFair

    We can all be proud that probably the smartest person in Congress is one of ours. I was so proud of him on Rachel last night, where he outlined the best libreal strategy around. All over his beaming face, I would give juicy lipstick smooches.

  • scribe31

    I was a kid when it came out about his boyfriend running a escort business. It was the first time that I realized that gay people could hold power, and make change. I didn’t have any role models at the time. Many nights I tried to pray the gay away. Seeing Frank, even with his issues, made me proud, made me unwilling to sit in the back of the class and take shit from people. Frank faught for himself and others, prove that wit can cut as sharp as a knife. The republicans had to redrawn lines to get him out of office, like they are doing in a lot of places… Good luck Frank, much love to you from the scared kid in me that needed a hero… peace

  • jason

    Barney Frank failed the gay community on many accounts. The man is a fake.

    Why didn’t he help to pass ENDA? The Democrats had a majority in both the House and Senate for about a year. Where was Barney then?

    He is most definitely not a saint. In fact, he’s harmed our movement.

  • Tan Cheng

    @jason: ENDA failed not because of a lack of will on the part of Barney Frank, but because of radical tranny opposition that allied with the religious right to demonize Frank and defeat any legislation that protects gay rights but doesn’t also push forward pro-transgender language in the same bill.

  • Gerald LeCambon

    One thing is sure, he sucks dick like a champ. I experienced it one night and it was great. He is extremely skilled all around

Comments are closed.