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Gay president 20 years off, says former US Congressman Barney Frank

Former US Congressman and veteran civil rights campaigner Barney Frank — Image courtesy of facebook.com/barneyfrank
Former US Congressman and veteran civil rights campaigner Barney Frank — Image courtesy of facebook.com/barneyfrank

LONDON, Aug 14 — The United States will elect an LGBT+ president, but it might take another 20 years before the rainbow flag flies metaphorically over the White House, according to former Congressman and veteran civil rights campaigner Barney Frank.

Attitudes toward the LGBT+ community have shifted “significantly” since he was first elected to Congress from the northeastern state of Massachusetts in 1981, Frank said.

“The country has made it very clear — full legal equality wins and prejudice loses,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

“I believe the fight for LGBT rights has been won (in the United States).”

Born in New Jersey, Frank, 80, has a long and storied past as a civil rights campaigner.

As a state legislator, he filed Massachusetts' first gay rights bills in 1972.

But it would be 15 years before he publicly came out, in the process becoming the first openly gay member of the U.S. Congress.

“I should have come out a little earlier,” Frank said, citing one of his few regrets in a six-decade political career.

Openly gay

As an openly gay lawmaker in the late 1980s and '90s, decades scarred by the advent of AIDS, Frank paved the way to this year's presidential run by Democratic contender Pete Buttigieg.

Even under Republican President Donald Trump, whose administration has pushed some anti-LGBT+ policies, “we have made some progress,” Frank said, citing the recent US Supreme Court ruling in favour of LGBT+ workplace anti-discrimination laws.

The issue of trans rights remains a concern, he said.

If elected president, Democrat Joe Biden would repeal the current US ban on new trans personnel in the military, Frank said, suggesting the military and Republicans would not object.

“Biden is committed to getting rid of the trans ban in the military — and the Republicans won't defend it,” he said.

While in office, Frank was instrumental in passing landmark legislation to protect consumers after the 2008 financial crisis.

The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, named for him and former Sen Chris Dodd, created new regulatory bodies and directed existing agencies to write hundreds of regulations aimed at creating stability in the financial markets.

It was the most sweeping financial regulatory statute enacted since the response to the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Frank stepped down from Congress in 2013, a year after he wed his partner Jim Ready, scoring another LGBT+ milestone as the first member of the House of Representatives to marry someone of the same sex.

He published his autobiography, Frank, in 2015, and now, among other interests, does political consulting via Zoom due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Frank also sits on the board of financial methodology and media company LGBTQ Loyalty — alongside tennis legend Martina Navratilova — which offers investors, through a third-party fund manager, the chance to invest in a basket of 100 Fortune 500 pro-LGBT+ rights companies.

From last month, investors have been able to trade the LGBTQ100 ESG Index via a division of direct indexing firm C8 Technologies.

“This a chance for people to advance their rights while making money off it,” he said.

Looking back, Frank said he remains proudest of his abilities as a legislator and has composed his epitaph based on his time as a Washington lawmaker.

“In the US Congress, you always speak for a limited amount of time and when the time you have been allotted is over, the presiding officer says, 'The gentleman's time has expired'.

“I told my husband I want this on whatever marker we have,” Frank said. — Thomson Reuters Foundation

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