WASHINGTON — The longest serving openly gay member of Congress won’t seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2012.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced his retirement during a press conference at Newton City Hall in Massachusetts on Monday. Had the lawmaker sought re-election, he would have been pursuing a 17th term in Congress.
Frank later confirmed his intent to retire at the end of next year in a statement issued by his office in which he said he “will not be a candidate for reelection to the House of Representatives in 2012.”
“I began to think about retirement last year, as we were completing passage of the financial reform bill,” Frank said. “I have enjoyed — indeed been enormously honored — by the chance to represent others in Congress and the State Legislature, but there are other things I hope to do before my career ends. Specifically, I have for several years been thinking about writing, and while there are people who are able to combine serious writing with full-time jobs, my susceptibility to distraction when faced with a blank screen makes that impossible.
The Massachusetts Democrat is one of four openly gay members of Congress. The other three are Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) Baldwin is leaving her seat to pursue a run for U.S. Senate, but gay candidate Mark Pocan is seeking to replace her.
Frank, 71, served as a member of the Massachusetts State House in the 1970s and was first elected to Congress in 1980. He serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. When Democrats held control of the House during the 111th Congress, he led the way as chairman of the committee for the passage of major financial reform legislation known as Dodd-Frank.
While announcing his plans to retire from Congress, Frank said during the news conference Monday he plans “to continue to be an advocate of public policy.” The lawmaker said he’d like to debate Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
“I did not think I had lived a good enough life to be rewarded by Newt Gingrich being the Republican nominee,” Frank said. “It still is unlikely, but I have hopes. Let me say, for example, I intend to continue to be an advocate of public policy. I look forward to debating, to take one important example, the Defense of Marriage Act with Mr. Gingrich. I think he is an ideal opponent for us, when we talk about just who it is, is threatening the sanctity of marriage.”
Gingrich, who helped pass DOMA into law in 1996 when he was House speaker, has been married three times and has confessed to committing adultery.
LGBT groups praised Frank for his years of service and his role as an LGBT advocate during his decades in Congress.
Statement by Jared Polis
BOULDER, Colo. — Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.) released the following statement on Monday regarding the retirement of Congressman Barney Frank.
“Barney Frank was a groundbreaking pioneer and one of the most insightful, knowledgeable and humorous people ever to grace the halls of Congress. We will miss his leadership on a wide range of issues — from fighting to reign in Wall Street’s excesses and working to stabilize our economy to standing up for equal rights for LGBT Americans and curtailing runaway Pentagon spending.
“Congressman Frank championed the rights of all Americans, the economic security of all of our families, and a politics of inclusion and hope. It’s a great loss for the Congress but Barney leaves behind an enviable record of accomplishment. I will miss his presence every day.”
Statement by Tammy Baldwin
MADISON, Wis. — Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) released this statement:
“With the retirement of Congressman Barney Frank, the House will lose one of its smartest, wittiest, and most progressive voices. In a time of deep economic turmoil and unscrupulous financial practices, Barney led the Financial Services Committee and the House to restore much-needed consumer protections and corporate regulation.
“For LGBT Americans, Barney has had an immeasurable impact both symbolically and substantively. He has written and fought for laws that are leading us toward full equality. He co-founded with me the first Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus which now boasts a bipartisan membership of nearly 100. He has been a role model for LGBT youth in and out of government. For me, he also has been a valued mentor and friend.
“For all of us committed to social justice, Barney leaves an enduring legacy.”