Barney Frank on coming out, legalizing marijuana and prostitution, the Supreme Court and the future of LGBT rights
Outgoing Congressman Barney Frank sat down recently for an interview with Huffington Post Senior Editor Michelangelo Signorile. Frank was, as usual, very candid in discussing topics ranging from his ‘coming out’ in 1987, the legalization of prostitution and marijuana, Prop 8 and the Supreme Court, and the future of LGBT rights.
Here are a few highlights:
On coming out:
“I simply would not have won in 1980 if I was out,” he continued. “The fact would have destroyed my chances. I didn’t deny it but just did not volunteer it. I came to Washington and it was just not satisfactory. I told myself, ‘I’m going to be a gay man privately and publicly I’m not going to say anything.’ And what I learned is that, particularly in a prominent position, you can’t live half gay and half closeted. So I decided to come out, and I was wrestling with when to do it, and the Stewart McKinney funeral drove me over the top.”
Regarding the legalization of prostitution (and marijuana):
“I always have thought prostitution should be legal,” he said. “I know people said, ‘Oh it victimizes women.’ And the women are vulnerable. We’ve seen this recently where the women are prosecuted when the customers, the men customers, have gotten away with it. But I think in the first place it’s a matter of personal choice. I’m for legalizing marijuana. I’m for legalizing gambling. I don’t think the government should be trying to make you a better person. But beyond that, the practical effect, the women, who are predominantly the prostitutes, they’re worse off when it’s illegal, because they’re outside protection of the law. They’re more subject to violence and subject to abuse because they can’t go to the law for protection.”
On the upcoming session in which the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Prop 8:
“I was critical of the decision to take Prop 8 to court,” he said. “I don’t the think the five-member Supreme Court majority that we have is ready to declare that there is a constitutional right to marry everywhere. To bring a lawsuit when you’re not likely to win it, prematurely, is a mistake. So I was very critical of those people in California who were doing that. When the Supreme Court decides the Prop 8 case, what I believe is likely to happen is that they will accept the decision by of the circuit court in the west coast [ the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had narrowed the decision to apply only to California]. It’s people being rescued from themselves. Some of them are still trying to push the broader case, which I think is a mistake.”
On Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s well known anti-lgbt views:
“I was glad that he made clear what’s been obvious, that he’s just a flat out bigot,” Frank said. “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.”
Regarding the future of LGBT rights:
“The next time we have a Democratic House, president and Senate,if DOMA hasnt 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.”
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