Barney Frank | National Equality March | News

Barney Frank on Marches, Effecting Change, and Running for Office


As part of a larger interview for the site Reddit, Barney Frank answers a question about the National Equality March and whether marches can effect change. Frank believes the March becomes "a substitute for what we can really get done" by lobbying members of Congress.

Frank also talks about other gay issues that are in the pipeline and how miserable it is to run for office.


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  1. I suspect many of the GLBT folks marching in DC probably don't know who their Senators are. Hence they can not effect their Senator nor get their Senator to vote for LGBT Civil Equality. Frank is hitting the nail on the head. If your Senator does not hear from YOU they don't know YOU exist and YOUR issues are nothing.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Oct 24, 2009 1:24:11 PM

  2. I agree with his rationale, but I still think a march is worthwhile. The one criticism I have of marches is that they don't do enough to educate and train participants on WHAT to do when they go back to their own states and districts, and HOW to make a difference at home.

    Posted by: sparks | Oct 24, 2009 1:58:00 PM

  3. Never posted here before, but i love this site.

    Barney can be aggravating, but let's be honest, he's not wrong here. The NEM was good for visibility and networking, but the challenge is exactly what he said. Should we march more? Hell yeah. But we also have to step up the ground game...everywhere. He's right about that.

    Let's get to it.

    Posted by: cr8nguy | Oct 24, 2009 2:06:48 PM

  4. When a politician (like BF) keeps trying to make the point that something like the NEM doesn't work, it just tells me that it IS working.

    The NEM is just one part of a larger movement that is getting more sophisticated and noticed by politicos that have, thus far, been talking a lot, but not delivering much.

    Along with the March, there's been No Excuses, the Dallas Principles and notably, the shut-down of the gAyTM in the Spring. The pressure is working and we just have to keep applying it -- locally and nationally. That was the message at the activist workshops that took place on Friday & Saturday prior to the March.

    The movement on the hate crimes bill needs to be followed up with passage of ENDA -- yes ENDA, before DOMA or DADT. There is talk of a Senate Committee hearing on ENDA to be held in November... so things are starting move.

    Fundraising for the mid-terms is about to kick-off in earnest, and there are lots of pols that will need the gAyTM open to retain their seats. We need to keep that in mind as well.

    Posted by: Mike in Houston | Oct 24, 2009 2:15:13 PM

  5. Barney Frank is a putz; always was always will be. He was dragged out of the closet, worked AGAINST (yes let me repeat, AGAINST) marriage equality because it was too soon and other gay related issues were, supposedly, more important. Frank is a chicken shit!

    Frank thought that allowing gays to serve openly in the military was more important (sure, a very worthy cause). But in the 17 years of DADT, DADT is still the rule. On the marriage front, the brave have fought hard and have made significant gains. Yes there have been set backs, but there is actually legal same-sex marriage in America.

    I guess there is a place for whinny gutless politicos like Frank, but it takes the heroic efforts of the unafraid to push at all levels for our right to be treated equally.

    I'll take protests any day over blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Barney and his droning excuses.

    Posted by: Mike in Brooklyn | Oct 24, 2009 2:41:02 PM

  6. I appreciate his comments and views. Yes, marching is not enough. HRC should have organized a massive Lobby Day the next day. The people we really want to reach -- the bigoted senators and reps who hate us ignored the rally and were nowhere around -- we must go to them! Imagine how people in the Capitol would have reacted if thousands of gay people flooded the halls the very next day to meet and speak with their senators and representatives. A face-to-face meeting is an extremely powerful way to get things done and HRC failed us by not moving on the momentum of the march.

    Posted by: B | Oct 24, 2009 2:49:19 PM

  7. Like him or not, he's definitely one of the more intelligent members of the Senate.

    Some of those fucks seem to have nothing more than a GED and a bible on their desk.

    Posted by: Drew | Oct 24, 2009 3:04:20 PM

  8. Barney's an old-time political hack who would still be in the clsoet were it not for the efforts of those he strikes such postures of superiority over.

    "Write your Senator and Congressman" is a nice idea, but it has nothing to do with grass-roots political activism -- which takes place on a number of stages, whe Washington March being only one. It's interestign that he says politics is boring. I'm sure he's right. Political activisim however is great fun. And that fun has little to do with getting together with other LBGTs and feeling good about yourselves.

    One of the most important things Gus and compnay got right in "Milk" was just how much fun activism can be.

    But Barney doesn't know anything about that.

    No wonder Sergio dumped him.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 24, 2009 3:10:51 PM

  9. Um, Drew -- BF is not a Senator, he's a ranking member of the House.

    B -- The House & Senate were in recess for the Columbus Day federal holiday that Monday... kind of hard to organize a "massive Lobby Day" when all of D.C. was basically shut down. HRC has done a good job with the "No Excuses" campaign.

    Posted by: Mike in Houston | Oct 24, 2009 3:14:40 PM

  10. As far as people at the march knowing their reps... were you there? Do you have any idea? Many people who were there are not new at this and know theirs very well.

    Furthermore, if you look at the NEM site, you will see that the follow-up to the march is all about organizing by districts.

    Next pronouncement from the know-nothings who neither attended the March nor signed up for updates? What are YOU doing, Sargon? Oh, just criticizing others while you sit on your hands.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Oct 24, 2009 3:45:07 PM

  11. i remember an earlier march when we were supposed to lobby our congressmembers the day after.

    the next day, en route to the office of my congressman (who has one of the worst voting records according to hrc, chris smith, r-nj) i remember thinking "where is everybody?"

    Posted by: r | Oct 24, 2009 3:52:15 PM

  12. Mike in Brooklyn : The sounds Barney makes are more accurately "bluh, bluh, bluh, bluh.." And I've heard whoever works for him says he's a mean vicious bitch too. And, yes, he was forced out of the closet.

    Posted by: JT | Oct 24, 2009 4:16:17 PM

  13. Because many Americans do not know who represents them in Congress, they will assume that anyone who's on television all the time is a senator. For this reason, the "front benchers" in the House are often mistaken for being members of the upper chamber.

    There were many "Step Down Senator Pelosi" at the tea parties and health care protests. Aside from being unintentionally funny, I suppose that's a sufficient visual commentary on who goes to these events.

    Posted by: John | Oct 24, 2009 4:24:31 PM

  14. Barney has a strong point here. I think the march was great but people NEED to call and keep calling their Senators. Sure call their Reps. too, but the problem is always the Senate. The Senate is where good progress seems to stop. Know your Senators and CALL, CALL, CALL!!!

    Posted by: DJ | Oct 24, 2009 7:10:49 PM

  15. Frank is right. Unfortunately, what he fails to mention is that Congress listens to those who come calling with bags of gold. I've contacted my senator, and got nothing but a polite, not very affirmative, response. If I had a few hundred thousand to contribute to his next run for office, I might get more attention. Sadly, that's how Congress works. Money talks. Otherwise, you march.

    Posted by: Victor | Oct 24, 2009 7:13:01 PM

  16. I wonder if someone *has* something on Barney. I hope not, but it's one (way-out) explanation of why he's not living up to expectations. Incidentally, I vote for him every time. Next time, we'll see.


    Posted by: JQPublic | Oct 24, 2009 7:36:44 PM

  17. The number of ad hominem attacks that appear in these comments is disturbing. No facts, no reasoning, no real conclusions... Half the negative comments here are at the level of preschoolers screaming "You're a poo poo head!" For example, "He was forced out of the closet!" isn't a response to anything being discussed in any of these videos, and says nothing at all about FRank's performance as a Congressman. "You're not a perfect fag!" couldn't be less relevant.

    This isn't discourse, it isn't analysis, it isn't even wit. Many of the posts here make it clear the writers are only marginally familiar with the structure of the Federal government, and haven't a clue how legislation is written or passed. Much of what's written here defines what is essentially LGBT fundamentalism: the energetic expression of prejudices unsupported by facts, unsullied by reasoning, and unconstrained by the need to reach any workable conclusion.

    Posted by: Bryan | Oct 24, 2009 7:53:17 PM

  18. KevinVT, yes I just sit on my hands. You mean we should do more? Oh let me text my 5,500,000 Facebook friends and tell them we should do more, we'll have a march. Indeed most marchers in most marches don't know who their elected officials are, I asked so I know. Now come here and let me hug you deep into my ample bosom; feel better now?

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Oct 24, 2009 7:54:54 PM

  19. How can it be surprising that a lifetime political animal like Rep. Frank thinks that politics is the only way to get things done? Plus he has always been a centrist. However, Rep. Frank forgets that Congress often acts when there is external pressure. The Equality March is an example of an external pressure. I was there and thought it was worthwhile.

    Posted by: Rafael | Oct 24, 2009 8:37:54 PM

  20. Rafael, I applaud your participation in the march. Still, I think being involved one-on-one with our senators and reps is the best way to bring about change. As an aside, how many times since the march has Pres. Obama mentioned it? I haven't seen or heard any reference to it at all by The White House. If The White House can't remember it, how do we expect our other elected officials to remember it?

    Posted by: B | Oct 24, 2009 9:34:08 PM

  21. I think that Frank is right on some things - a march is unlikely to change the way government representatives and their ilk vote.

    That takes letter writing campaigns from within their own districts showing enough support in the community that will translate into enough votes to endanger or keep a seat.

    However, what I think these marches do accomplish is to give hope and encourage activism of individuals who have, up until this point, remained on the sidelines, provided it gets enough media coverage for them to see it.

    Posted by: El-Brucio | Oct 24, 2009 11:57:07 PM

  22. The march had an enormous amount of value for those involved, but little in terms of impacting legislation that impacts the GLBT community. Congressman Frank is a gay pioneer. The fact that some of the people who have posted comments on here forget that shows how ignorant they are. I called my congressman's office the day of the march, and had a much greater impact than walking around an empty Washington with a posterboard sign.

    Posted by: Dan | Oct 25, 2009 4:24:21 AM

  23. Barney Frank may be irritating at times but he is so currect, as he is here. Nobody in discussion has yet mentioned what I consider his strongest argument. The NRA and AARP know how its done. That's so obvious. They don't march, they don't call people on their side "putz's", they get the job done!! It is a very valuable lesson to look at examples of organizations that have political power way beyond what they should have in this country and learn from that. We do not have to reinvent the wheel if there are already examples we should follow. Just look at what both of them have achieved, from winning Supreme Court arguments on scant logic to providing enormous monetary benefits way beyond what is necessary for their members. They do it by one-on-one contact with their elected representatives. How can you argue with that? I'm sure both organizations have their internal struggles like any other. But do you hear those on the news like we constantly hear about the LGTB community? No. You hear from organizations that are presented in the media as if they were in complete harmony over those issues that are most important for their cause. That is also a primary goal of both groups for obvious reasons. Why can't we learn from that?

    Posted by: chrispy | Oct 25, 2009 9:27:06 AM

  24. What the NRA and AARP are doing has no relation whatsoever to the gay rights movemnet.

    We're not a civil rights "add-on" (which is precisely how we're spoken of by clueless, fearful breeders.) Our existence questions the very nature of the status quo -- which is why they hate us so much. In the words of the great Frank O'Hara "Grace to be born and live as variously as possible" -- which is precisely what LGBT is about. If Barney is a "Gay Pioneer" then Rock Hudson is Neil Patrick Harris.

    The trouble right now is the way Gay Marriage has stolen a spotlight that ought to be dominated by ENDA. Getting married is great, but if you're going to be fired or rendered homeless for being gay -- without any legal recourse tomfight back -- what the fuck is it worth? That's the story for the bulk of Americans. But we're totally blinkered by the myth of a "classless society." And class rules EVERYTHING!

    The Stonewall rioters are people that Barney and the HRC wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

    You don't like the movement, Barney? THEN GET OFF THE FUCKING GRASS!!!!!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 25, 2009 9:38:35 AM

  25. @Bryan
    Well said and exactly correct.

    Posted by: Bill in SoCal | Oct 25, 2009 2:36:51 PM

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