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Barney Frank

Barney Frank

Biography
U.S. Representative (1940–)
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Barney Frank is the first U.S. Congressman to voluntarily announce his homosexuality. He is also known for his work on the 2008 American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act.

When Was Barney Frank Born?

Barney Frank was born on March 31, 1940, in Bayonne, New Jersey. The Massachusetts Democrat became a U.S. Congressman in 1980 and publicly announced his homosexuality in 1987. Frank worked at length on the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act, which was passed in 2008. He married his longtime boyfriend, Jim Ready, in July 2012.

Early Life

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank (D) is considered one of the most prominent gay politicians in the United States. Born Barnett Frank to Elsie and Samuel Frank, Barney grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey. His father ran a Jersey City truck stop and later served a year in jail for refusing to testify against his brother, who was involved in a kickback scheme. Despite the incident, Frank's parents instilled in him and his three siblings "a belief in the power of the government to do good," according to a January 2009 article in The New Yorker.

Frank graduated from Harvard College in 1962 and later earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in government while teaching undergraduate classes. He then became chief assistant to Boston Mayor Kevin and worked for Massachusetts Congressman Michael Harrington. In 1972, Frank served on the Massachusetts House of Representatives for eight years while attending Harvard Law School. In 1979, he passed the bar exam in Massachusetts.

During his time in state government, Frank taught part-time at his alma mater and several other universities, including Boston University. He also published articles on public affairs and politics. 

By the late 1970s, Frank decided to pursue higher office—and in 1980—he ran for and won the U.S. House of Representatives 4th Congressional District seat, which he continued to win every election thereafter. He announced in November 2011 that he would not seek re-election the following year. 

Coming Out

Frank opened up about his homosexuality to friends before he ran for Congress, but he concealed his sexual preference from the public until May 30, 1987. Frank, the first congressman to ever publicly announce his homosexuality, said that one of his reasons for doing so was that he did not want to end up like closeted bisexual Republican Connecticut Congressman Stewart McKinney: After McKinney's death, on May 7, 1987, media speculation arose regarding whether or not he was gay. "I don't want that to happen to me," Frank told the Washington Post. According to Edge Boston magazine, another catalyst for Frank's revelation was increased media interest in his private life after former Republican Maryland Congressman Bob Bauman was ousted from his seat following an arrest for soliciting an underage male prostitute.

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Congressional Career

In his 32-year career as a member of the U.S. Congress, Frank became well-known for his involvement in the House's Financial Services Committee and mortgage foreclosure bailout issues.

Shortly after Frank announced his imminent departure from Congress, the Washington Post published an article exploring the congressman's effect on the 2007 housing crisis. Its conclusion, stated in the article's headline, said: "Barney Frank didn't cause the housing crisis."

Fannie Mae fought aggressively to minimize federal regulation of its activities and attempts to tax its profits. Among its tactics was giving "extravagant favors" to influential lawmakers, including Frank, who received $42,350 in campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac between 1989 and 2008. But in 2005, Frank also attempted to help sponsor a bipartisan House bill to create an independent regulator for the corporations: it died in the Senate.

Following the subprime mortgage crisis, Frank supported the passage of the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act, which intended to protect homeowners from foreclosure. The law, passed in 2008, is now considered one of the most essential and complex issues of Frank's career.

Where is Barney Frank Now?

Twenty-five years after he revealed to the nation that he was gay, a 72-year-old Frank married his longtime boyfriend, Jim Ready, who was 42 at the time. On the evening of Saturday, July 7, 2012, Frank and Ready exchanged vows at the Boston Marriott Newton in Boston in a ceremony officiated by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Many political luminaries, including Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, attended the ceremony, but members of the media were not permitted to attend. By exchanging vows in Massachusetts six months before the end of his congressional career, Frank "took another deliberate first step ... [and will] spend the rest of his time in office as the nation's first congressman in a same-sex marriage," The Washington Post wrote.

In an interview with New York Magazine in April 2012, Frank said he wanted to get married while in office because he thinks "it's important that [his] colleagues interact with a married gay man." He also told the reporter why he decided to leave Congress at the end of his term. "I've been doing this since October of 1967, and I've seen too many people stay here beyond when they should," Frank said. "I don't have the energy that I used to have. I don't like it anymore, I'm tired, and my nerves are frayed. And I dislike the negativism of the media. I think the media has gotten cynical and negative to a point where it's unproductive."

In 2022, author and illustrator Eric Omer released a graphic novel based on Barney's life titled "Smahtguy: The Life and Times of Barney Frank."

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