Barney Frank To WGBH: Redistricting, Coming Out And His Future

By WGBH News

Nov. 28, 2011

barney frank

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., is surrounded by members of the media on Nov. 28 after announcing he will not seek reelection. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

BOSTON — Rep. Barney Frank spoke with WGBH News' Jordan Weinstein on Nov. 28 after a hectic afternoon of explaining his decision to retire after his 16th term. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.


WGBH: In 1982 you faced a more dramatic redistricting challenge... and ultimately you won 60 percent of the vote. What's different today?

FRANK: Back in 1982 I had only been representing the district I was then in for one year. I had not formed the attachments, I had not taken on the obligations to help with problems that I had... So it was an easier transition.

Secondly, in 1982 I was 42 years old. I was preparing for a Congressional career that has in fact lasted over 30 years. What that meant was I could go to the new people… and say "Please make me your Representative and if you do I promise you many years of hard work".... [Now] I would go to 325,000 people not now in my district, in parts of the state that I’ve never represented, and say to them "Please vote for me, make me your advocate but oh but by the way, any problem that I pick up that you ask me to try to resolve over the next two years, I’m going to dump at the end of 2014.”

Coming Out

WGBH: You were the first Congressman to voluntarily come out as a gay man. In retrospect, do you wish you had come out sooner?

FRANK: Do I wish I’d come out earlier? A couple years but not too much earlier because I do not think it would have been possible to have gotten elected to Congress… If I’d come out too much earlier I think I would not have survived….
There was a complication. My neighbor and good friend and late colleague Gerry Studds… Gerry was involved in something which required his being honest and acknowledging that he was gay…. We had adjoining districts in Bristol County, Mass. and he and I talked about it and I was ready to acknowledge being gay but the notion of there being two gay Congressmen in the history of America, two openly gay Congressmen, representing adjoining districts seemed to us a little bit more than we were ready for. So I let an election go by before I came out.

His Future Plans

WGBH: What do you intend to do when you leave office?

FRANK: Talk to the media less.

Hear the whole conversation:

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