(March 31, 1940 – )
Widely considered the most prominent gay politician in the U.S.A., Barney Frank is the Democratic US Representative for Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district (1981- present). He is the former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, where he remains the ranking Democrat.
He has been outspoken on many civil rights issues, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. In 1998, Frank founded the National Stonewall Democrats, the national LGBT Democratic organization. In 2006, Frank and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were accused by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) of having a “radical homosexual agenda”; Frank responded, “I do have things I would like to see adopted on behalf of LGBT people: they involve the right to marry the individual of our choice; the right to serve in the military to defend our country; and the right to a job based on our own qualifications. I acknowledge that this is an agenda, but I do not think that any self-respecting radical in history would have considered advocating people’s rights to get married, join the army, and earn a living as a terribly inspiring revolutionary platform” (Frank 2008: 1). In 2009, Frank had a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, indicating a consistent pro-choice voting record.
Frank’s efforts to advance democracy have been wide-ranging. He successfully fought to pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which requires regulatory changes covering capital investment by banks and insurance companies and has advocated better regulation of hedge and private equity funds. On October 12, 2011, Frank came out in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement, stating that he is in “general agreement with the objections that they have to existing conditions” including “their criticism of many of the practices in the financial community that led to the [2008-2009 financial] crisis” (Frank 2011: 1).
Barney Frank provides a good example of the connections to be made among causes to promote democracy. While he first came out as a campaigner for sexuality rights, he has also pointed to the ways that corporate capitalism and the growing gap between rich and poor threaten hopes for economic and political democracy. In this appreciation, Franks stands in good company alongside such activists as Canada’s Libby Davies and Iceland’s Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.
Frank, Barney. 2008. “News Release from Barney Frank.” United States House of Representatives. March 4, 2008. Archived from the original on August 1, 2008.
Frank, Barney. 2011. “Congressman Frank’s Letter to Constituents Regarding the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Protests.” http://frank.house.gov/