Alex Blaze

What's Barney Frank thinking?

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 21, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Barney Frank, DOMA, ENDA, LGBT, marriage, religious right, repeal, rights, roll call

While I still think this is all abstract considering the fact that DOMA repeal won't be happening for at least four years, I'm wondering what Barney Frank is thinking:

"I do think it can complicate things electorally for Members" supporting DOMA repeal legislation filed this week, Frank said. "People will interpret this as exporting marriage. That could complicate matters."

Frank, whose name is noticeably absent from the bill's 92 co-sponsors, was referring to the fact that the measure only addresses same-sex marriages, not civil unions or domestic partnerships. Bill supporters say they are focused on removing restrictions on the federal recognition of marriage since domestic partnerships and civil unions differ in every state.

Frank has said he won't endorse the bill because he doesn't think it is achievable in the near term. Instead, he has adopted the stance taken by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), which is to move first on the aspects of the gay agenda that are likely to pass, such as workplace discrimination and full domestic benefits for federal employees.

Those are all good, but even Jerry Nadler realizes that DOMA won't come up for a vote any time soon. With that in mind, saying that the bill is a bad idea for people to vote for or that supporting this legislation will hurt representatives politically is a bad idea. It will only make those folks more reticent to voting for that bill and continue the myth that, when it comes to same-sex marriage, the Religious Right has a powerful issue they can use to win elections, when the truth is that the issue was never as important to voters as they said it was.

There are ways to say "now is not the time" without saying those who sponsor the bill will lose their jobs. What he's doing now is only reaffirming Beltway Culture's inherent bias against LGBT legislation by reifying the "Real Americans will vote on homophobia" myth.

He says he doesn't think the bill is achievable in the short-term, but the same could be said about any number of bills in Congress, including his bill to legalize pot or ENDA back in 2007. Lots of bills are written and introduced into Congress with no intention of them being passed in the short term, but just for support to be built and for the issue to get discussed.

And, while 2012 might be an entirely different story, DOMA's definitely not going to be an issue on most people's radar in 2010. Health care, the economy, and the wars will be on everyone's minds, not a bill that wouldn't even legalize same-sex marriage. And the House Democrats are going to lose a few seats, but it won't have anything to do with same-sex marriage either - a few of them got in on Obama's coattails and won't have that help in 2010. It almost always happens in the midterm after a presidential election.

The only calculation that makes sense here is that Frank thinks that DOMA even being introduced (and therefore getting publicity) will be a distraction from ENDA and federal employee partner benefits and possibly DADT. I can fully see that reasoning, although making a big deal out of this isn't going to keep it on the back-burner. If he didn't want it to garner attention, he should have just cosponsored, give a nice little quotation to the group press release, and then leave it alone.

Maybe someone smarter than me can explain why Frank is acting this way. The only thing that make some sense that he's still shell-shocked from all those years of conservative power and same-sex marriage being the Religious Right's favorite rallying cry against any LGBT legislation. In which case, understandable, but it's time to move on.


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He's pissed at Nadler for other legislation squabbles.

Barney is just being Barney. He did this with the trans community's pet issue and now he's doing it with the gay community's pet issue.

Frank is a Democrat first and a LGBT supporter and activist second. He will always prioritize protecting Democratic Party power and that of their members above the success of any legislative effort. He's willing to delay the repeal of DOMA because he believes it's politically inconvenient for the Dems right now, just as he was willing to boot transfolks out of ENDA in '07 for the same reason.