Current Affairs

Gay Congressman takes up key post

Tony Grew January 5, 2007
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The only out gay man in the new 110th Congress has been appointed chairman of the powerful Financial Services Committee, and has promised to give shareholders more say over executive salaries.

Rep Barney Frank commented in 1996 that he is used to being in the minority, but thanks to the shift of power in Congress as a result of the November elections the left-handed, Jewish homosexual suddenly finds himself in the driving seat.

The 66-year-old Democrat now has an opportunity to tackle some of the inequalities that the rampant free-market in the USA causes.

“The income of 80 percent to 90 percent of Americans has substantially lagged economic growth,” he said, according to Cox News.

“There are people, I guess, who don’t care about inequality as a moral issue. I do.”

Frank has lost no time in attacking the corporate culture of big bonuses.

Yesterday he described the rewards system for top executives as out of control.

Speaking to the National Press Club, Frank told journalists, “The justification for these very, very large amounts of money being given has been that they are performance-driven.

“When it’s given as a consolation prize for bad performance, then the whole justification is called into question.”

One cannot imagine any Republican, always keen to portray themselves as the friends of big business, promising new laws to give shareholders more control over corporate pay.

Rep. Frank has represented the 4th District of Massachusetts since 1981, and is the only out gay man in the House of Representatives, though probably not the only one, as the scandals surrounding Mark Foley last year would indicate.

An outsider in Congress, the 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.”

Now, the outsider finally is in control, and this hero of the gay rights movement gets a chance, after 26 years in Congress, to effect real change.

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