President Obama has lauded Barney Frank, the first congressman to voluntarily come out, who announced on Monday that he will retire.
Frank, (71) has been the Democratic Party Representative for Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district since 1981.
He came out publicly in 1987 and Wikipedia describes him as “the most prominent gay politician in the United States”.
During their 11 year relationship, Frank’s partner at the time, economist and LGBT activist Herb Moses, became the first partner of an openly gay member of Congress to receive spousal benefits.
In 1989, Frank was reprimanded by the House Ethic Committee for having used his position to squash parking tickets for a male prostitute that he was in a relationship with. The scandal never appeared to affect his career.
In a statement on Monday, President Obama said that the U.S. “has never had a Congressman like Barney Frank, and the House of Representatives will not be the same without him”.
The president went on to add: “For over 30 years, Barney has been a fierce advocate for the people of Massachusetts and Americans everywhere who needed a voice. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of families and businesses and helped make housing more affordable. He has stood up for the rights of LGBT Americans and fought to end discrimination against them.”
Joe Solmonese, president of America’s largest LGBT rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, also praised Frank and his achievements.
“As one of the first openly gay Members of Congress, Barney defied stereotypes and kicked doors open for LGBT Americans. Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act would never have happened without his leadership,” said Solmonese.
“But it goes beyond that. 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.”
Frank lives in Newton, Massachusetts with his current partner, Jim Ready.