Longtime Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the first member of Congress to reveal himself to be gay, told TPM he was very happy to see President Obama endorse same-sex marriage, but characterized the move as a political no-brainer that would have little impact on the 2012 election.
“I do not think anybody is going to switch his or her opinion on him because of this,” Frank said shortly after Obama’s announcement Wednesday afternoon. “I believe that if you are someone who was going to be so influenced by your position on same-sex marriage, then you would already be against Obama before this, because of his position on [the Defense of Marriage Act].”“So I’m not surprised,” he said. “He took the major step with DOMA. That’s where federal marriage policy is. And this is kind of a mopping-up, which I’m glad he did. But politically it was no big deal.”
Likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney reaffirmed his view that marriage is between a man and a woman. Public opinion has been on an upward trajectory over the long-term but has swung sharply in the last few years, with recent polls showing a slim majority of Americans support the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Frank, who is retiring at the end of this term after having served in Congress since 1981 and revealed himself to be gay in 1987, witnessed the fruition of the anti-gay-rights measures “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA. He said Obama’s move meant a lot to him personally because he sees it as evidence that the arc of history is bending sharply in favor of marriage equality.
“Look, I note that this happens just a couple months before my own marriage,” Frank said. “And it makes me very happy both because he’s doing it and because it confirms that we are on the verge of winning this fight within 10 years. We’re gathering momentum and I think it’s going to be seen that this will not have hurt him politically. So yeah, it is something that makes me feel very good, both for itself and because it’s an indication of how much progress we’re going to continue to make.”
Frank disputed the contention that Obama was hedging when he said states have a right to decide the issue. “That’s just a statement of fact,” Frank said. “That’s like saying today is Wednesday. I mean that’s just a statement of the American Constitution.”
So what’s next, apart from the administration’s effort to get rid of DOMA, the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman?
“We’ll continue to fight this state by state,” Frank said, invoking an upcoming gay marriage referendum in Maryland. “And then the next time we have a Democratic House, Senate and president, pass a bill banning discrimination in employment.” He predicted that “within six or eight years” the GOP would start to come around on the issue of marriage equality. “The Republicans are clearly on the wrong side of this.”