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."