It was a moment of affection between two politicians, and in normal circumstances it would pass unnoticed.
But when one is the only out gay man in Congress and the other a President who has revelled in his hostility to gay marriage, their closeness raises eyebrows.
After his final State of the Union address to both Houses of Congress on Monday, President George W Bush greeted Congressman Barney Frank with a shoulder and head touch, as the two shared a personal moment.
Fox News commentator Brit Hume felt moved to point it out, without saying the word ‘gay’:
“Hold on a second, what we just saw there was an interesting moment, a moment of friendship and almost affection between the President and none other than Barney Frank,
“Who I think it’s fair to say is one of the most liberal Members of Congress, also one of the smartest guys up there, but, uh…”
His co-host Nina Easton was quick to point out that Congressman Frank has co-operated closely with the White House as Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
It later emerged that Frank had encountered the President before his speech.
On the phone to his boyfriend while waiting the Speaker’s Lobby, Frank was approached by the President, who leaned in and said “tell him I said hello.”
The affectionate exchange captured by the cameras after the President’s speech was in fact the Congressman saying:
“Mr. President, by the way, the person I was talking to when you said to say hello was my boyfriend.”
“Well. I hope you said how open-minded I am,” was Bush’s response.
“I considered telling [the President] I wouldn’t marry him,” Frank told the Boston Globe, “but then I thought, ‘Nah.’”
President Bush has tried to introduce an amendment to the US Constitution banning same-sex marriage, while Mr Frank’s home state of Massachusetts is the only one in the US to have legalised it.
Congressman Frank has represented the 4th District of Massachusetts since 1981, and is one of two out gay people in the House of Representatives.
Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Congresswoman, is the only lesbian in the House.
An outsider in Congress Frank, a Harvard-educated lawyer, has a sharp tongue and is consistently voted one of the funniest members of the House.
He came out in 1987, and his political opponents have tried to smear and unseat him on many occasions.
Many opponents thought he was politically dead after a rent boy scandal in 1990.
Attempts to expel him failed – the House voted 408-18 to reprimand him instead.
The people of his district stuck with him through the scandal – he won re-election in 1990 with 66 percent of the vote. In 2006 he ran unopposed.
In 1998, he founded the National Stonewall Democrats, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Democratic pressure group.
He has been a vocal and articulate defender of LGBT rights. Speaking out against the Federal Marriage Act, which would have amended the US Constitution to ban gay marriage, he said:
“We’re told “don’t take things personally”, but I take this personally. I take it personally when people decide to take political batting practice with my life.”
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