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Barney Frank: Being a congressman less socially acceptable than being gay

Jaime E. Connolly/Fotique Frank, left, with husband Jim Ready. (Jaime E. Connolly/Fotique)

Back in the dark days of the early 1980s, “gay” was a dirty word. Now, not so much, according to the always-quippy former congressman Barney Frank. And these days, he says, it’s “member of Congress” that’s the truly shameful phrase.

During an appearance this weekend on the NPR quiz show  “Ask Me Another,” the Massachusetts Democrat mused about how times had changed from the day that he came to Congress to when he retired last year. Then, he said, being gay carried a stigma, while being a congressman was seen as honorable. Now, he says, it’s the reverse.

“When I got to Congress in 1981 … serving as a congressman, as a senator, that was a great, respectable thing. Being gay was not,” Frank said. “As I left office, it struck me that my marriage to Jim was more socially acceptable than me being a congressman.”

“I’d like to think that I improved the image of one, but it’s not my fault about the other,” he added.

Asked how married life was, Frank mock-apologized to all the people “whose marriages Jim and I damaged somehow,” a reference to the claim often used by gay-marriage opponents that allowing same-sex couples to wed undermines the institution.

And who might those people be? Frank posited that they might be the “millions of happily married men [who], when they hear about me and Jim, say, ‘I could have married a guy!'”


Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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