Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank may have been the first openly gay lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives, but that does not mean he’s been engendering much love from the gay community as of late.
Quite the contrary: speaking to the Associated Press recently, he commented that a planned gay rights rally in Washington, D.C. this weekend is “a waste of time, at best” that will only succeed in “putting pressure [on] the grass.”
Frank, an ardent supporter of equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said that instead of gathering for a pride march in D.C., activists would be better off lobbying their individual members of Congress at home in their own districts.
Last month, Frank ruffled LGBT feathers by suggesting that members of Congress should not support the Respect for Marriage Act — which would extend marriage equality to every sector of the U.S. population — because it could be seen by some as “exporting” marriage and “could complicate matters” for Democrats.
Frank’s approach is seen as similar to Speaker Nancy Pel0si’s (D-CA), who prefers to take small steps toward marriage equality. In the short term, two of those steps would be ensuring partners of federal employees have equal benefits, and reinforcing laws that prohibit workplace discrimination.
The Massachusetts Congressman told The Washington Blade recently that pending lawsuits against the Defense of Marriage Act have a better chance of overturning enforced marriage inequality than any single action of Congress, at this point.
President Barack Obama has called the Defense of Marriage Act “discriminatory” and said it interferes with individual states’ rights. On Saturday, Obama will address the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest gay rights group, and praise the pending expansion of hate crime laws, which will cover crimes committed against LGBT-oriented individuals due to their sexuality.
“The House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would broaden the current definition of federal hate crimes to include attacks based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability,” The Washington Post noted. “Final action in the Senate is expected next week.”
Former President George W. Bush repeatedly threatened to veto similar legislation during his eight years in the White House.
The Respect for Marriage Act would not force states to marry gay couples or recognize the unions under state law, it would recognize gay marriages on a federal level. Couples living in states which do not permit their union would be allowed to travel elsewhere to obtain their marriage license, which would remain in-force upon their return home.