US Congressman Barney Frank talks about coming out publicly 25 years ago today

Recalls it was two Republican senators who were the first to show support but says GOP has since 'regressed'

US Congressman Barney Frank talks about coming out publicly 25 years ago today
01 June 2012

It was 25 years ago today (1 June) that Barney Frank became the first openly gay member of the US House of Representatives.

He talked with MSNBC’s Laurence O’Donnell about the milestone and remembered a time when he was afraid that after coming out, people wouldn’t vote for him.

Frank persevered and is retiring at the end of the current session after more than three decades in the U.S. House. During that time, he has seen a shift in the public’s views on homosexuality.

‘There’s been a great progress made on diminishing prejudice and hate in the country as a whole,’ Frank said. ‘Unfortunately, it’s become partisan. The Democrats have gotten better at an even faster rate than the country but the Republicans have regressed. I look back kind of nostalgically to a degree of bipartisan encouragement I got then that sadly I couldn’t count on today.’

In fact, after Frank came out, he said it was then high-ranking Republican senators Alan Simpson and Warren Rudman who were the first to offer their support.

In recent years, Republicans as a party have largely opposed LGBT equality including gay marriage and the ability for gay and lesbians to serve openly in the US military.

The anti-gay rhetoric hit new highs during the Republican presidential primaries and Barney blasted presumptive nominee Mitt Romney for some of his views which the congressman called ‘despicable.’

Frank said that ‘reality is defeating prejudice’ when it comes to gays getting married and serving in the military because doomsday scenarios painted by opponents have not come to pass.

The 71-year-old congressman is himself getting married next month.

‘Never thought the day would come when I would be able to do that,’ Frank told O’Donnell.

When Frank came out in 1987, he said then: "What I thought was going to be a pretty tough time turned out to be a surprisingly easy one. … On the other hand, I feel kind of funny. It’s a little late in life to become any kind of sex symbol."

HAVE YOUR SAY

MORE TOP STORIES

No thumbnail available

Tasmanian opposition leader stands against gay marriage

Liberal leader of the opposition in Tasmania will not allow his MPs a conscience vote on gay marriage
No thumbnail available

Virginia Senate passes bill to ban anti-gay discrimination

Virginia’s Senate approved a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees
No thumbnail available

Cloris Leachman recalls pulling a desperate Judy Garland out of swimming pool

Actress says the late gay icon wondered if anyone could ever love her
No thumbnail available

Nigeria lesbian fleeing sharia court death sentence asks UK judge to save her life

Protestors from around the world gathered outside Royal Courts of Justice to fight for LGBTI rights activist Aderonke Apata, and Gay Star News was there
No thumbnail available

No tweets, Facebook updates or Instagram selfies for Jonathan Groff

'I stay completely unhooked when it comes to social media'
No thumbnail available

Burchill shows anti-trans media attitudes remain

Helen Belcher of Trans Media Watch highlights institutionalized discrimination in Britain’s National Health Service and media
No thumbnail available

After failure in the US, Starbucks boycott campaign goes global

Campaign to boycott Starbucks for supporting gay marriage is heading to Middle East and China
No thumbnail available

Brighton Pride secured until 2020

UK’s biggest LGBTI park event has secured the right to use its home for the next six years
No thumbnail available

UK gangs sell sham gay marriages for citizenship

Authorities say fake gay couples are harder to detect
No thumbnail available

Daniel Radcliffe finds it odd to be asked about playing gay sex scenes

'You never see a gay actor getting asked what it’s like to play straight'