Retiring Rep. Barney Frank toured Cathedral of Hope and met with members of Youth First Texas for an hour-long discussion at the Interfaith Peace Chapel on Monday.
Frank was in town for a fundraiser for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.
“I’m not campaigning myself this year,” Frank said. “And Eddie Bernice Johnson is enormously respected in Congress.”
Frank predicted that within 20 years, there will be full LGBT equality. He said several things have changed recently paving the way. States that have passed marriage equality have seen no impact on anyone else’s marriage. The head of the Marine Corps who opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” said he was wrong and that repeal had no negative impact the military. And younger people are less likely to oppose equality and their support should continue as they age.
He said that the anti-LGBT faction has tried to divide the African-American caucus to stop their support of LGBT equality.
But Rep. Johnson said, “We know what it’s like to be treated unfairly.”
Frank said the black caucus is better on LGBT issues than the gay members.
“Not the openly gay members,” he said, politely declining to name any of his colleagues as closeted.
A Booker T. Washington student asked if his perception of Congress was correct.
“The far right seems to have gotten angrier and moved more to the right,” the student said.
Johnson joked it was “because our president is so black.”
Frank said, “Bob Dole, even Dan Quayle, weren’t like that. They see the country slipping away from them. This is not the country they grew up in. You’re certainly right. They’re angrier.”
But Frank believes the tea party is losing strength. He thinks many will be defeated in the upcoming election and that the label has become a negative in most places.
Frank, who was first elected to the Massachusetts Legislature in 1972, three years after the Stonewall Rebellion, said he rode in Boston’s second Pride parade.
Ari Emanuel, brother of Chicago mayor Rahm and basis for the character of Ari Gold, the William Morris agent in Entourage, contacted Frank about representing him after he retires at the end of this year.
Frank plans to write. His first book will probably be about LGBT equality. And he plans to lecture.
“What I’ve been doing for free, I’ll be getting paid for,” he joked.
Frank commented on marriage equality not being an issue in the election or mentioned in the debates.
“The majority of voters have someone close to them who is gay or lesbian,” he said.
Speaking about their surroundings, Johnson said she enjoyed coming to Cathedral of Hope, which she called “an accepting and peaceful environment.”
She contrasted that to some other churches she’s experienced and blamed teen suicide on a “lack of understanding.”
She mentioned Chris Crowe, a young, gay member of her staff who passed away last year after heart surgery, calling him a “delightful individual.”
Frank said Crowe “had an impact on other staff, too.”
Frank told the youth from YFT they deserved their equal rights.
“I’m not asking anyone to be grateful for the progress we’re making,” he said.
He told them a story of a man who was shot in the neck. Other people said he was lucky he wasn’t shot in the head. The person recovering from the neck wound said, “Well, I think people who weren’t shot are luckier.”