Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress, today revealed his plan to retire at the end of his current term. Frank has been openly gay since 1987, and in his time in Congress, has been instrumental in the progress of civil rights in the United States. He was a prominent supporter of numerous gay-rights issues, including a bill to allow same-sex partners of federal employees the same benefits as spouses, and the ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“The decision was precipitated by congressional redistricting, though not entirely caused by it,” Frank said at a news conference. “I’ve been ambivalent about running, not because I don’t think the job is important, but because there are other things I’d like to do in my life before my career is over.”
In 2006, Frank was accused by John Hostettler (R-IN) of having a “radical homosexual agenda”; Frank responded “I do have things I would like to see adopted on behalf of LGBT people: they include the right to marry the individual of our choice; the right to serve in the military to defend our country; and the right to a job based solely on our own qualifications. I acknowledge that this is an agenda, but I do not think that any self-respecting radical in history would have considered advocating people’s rights to get married, join the army, and earn a living as a terribly inspiring revolutionary platform.”
In a written statement, President Barack Obama hailed Frank’s “passion and his quick wit.” He praised Frank’s lifelong work to expand affordable housing, and to end discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.