Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., the longest-serving openly gay member of Congress, confirmed at a press conference this afternoon that he won’t seek re-election in 2012.
Frank said he decided to retire in part because he would have faced a tough campaign next year after his district was redrawn to include more conservative areas. Frank said the district would be almost half new.
“If I were to run again, I would be engaged full-fledged in a campaign, which is entirely appropriate — nobody ought to expect to get re-elected without a contest — but the fact that it is so new makes it harder, in terms of learning about new areas, introducing myself to new people.”
Frank also took a jab at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has climbed to the top of GOP presidential polls.
“I did not think I had lived a good enough life to be rewarded by Newt Gingrich being the Republican nominee. It still is unlikely, but I have hopes,” Frank said.
“I look forward to debating, to take one important example, the Defense of Marriage Act with Mr. Gingrich,” Frank said. “I think he is an ideal opponent for us when we talk about who it is that is threatening the sanctity of marriage. … He would be the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party since Barry Goldwater.”
Watch a clip of Frank’s comments about Gingrich above.
Below are reactions to Frank’s retirement from President Barack Obama and others.
President Barack Obama:
“This country has never had a Congressman like Barney Frank, and the House of Representatives will not be the same without him. For over 30 years, Barney has been a fierce advocate for the people of Massachusetts and Americans everywhere who needed a voice. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of families and businesses and helped make housing more affordable. He has stood up for the rights of LGBT Americans and fought to end discrimination against them. And it is only thanks to his leadership that we were able to pass the most sweeping financial reform in history designed to protect consumers and prevent the kind of excessive risk-taking that led to the financial crisis from ever happening again. Barney’s passion and his quick wit will be missed in the halls of Congress, and Michelle and I join the people of the Bay State in thanking him for his years of service.
Rea Carey, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
“Barney Frank is one of kind. He has brought his own brand of brashness, boldness, unmatched wit, discipline and skill to Capitol Hill, at times ingratiating and infuriating friend and foe alike. We thank him for his years of service. As an openly gay member of Congress for nearly a quarter century, Barney Frank has made his mark on history. Yet his legacy is much more than that — for 30 years, he has dedicated himself to bettering the lives of the people he serves, and the country he serves. His voice — often loud and uncompromising — will be missed by many, including me.”
Evan Wolfson, founder and president, Freedom to Marry:
“As a public servant, Barney Frank has been an inspiration and a giant in an age where we’ve had few, and losing him as a leader in Congress and in public debate will be a painful blow for the country. Barney’s excellence in shaping legislation and unparalleled voice in battling many of the wrong turns the country has taken have made extraordinary contributions to the history of our times. His singular and authentic personality has made politics look good at a time when so many events and electeds have made it look bad. I will miss his leadership, his brilliance, his liberal vision and values, and, of course, his corruscating wit. We need more Barney Franks in public life, not fewer, and fortunately we will always have his indelible example to work from.”
Mara Keisling, executive director, National Center for Transgender Equality:
“While the relationship between Congressman Frank and transgender people has not always been smooth, the truth is that he has pushed very hard for trans rights in Congress and the administration over the last few years. Social justice work is largely about winning people to our side. As they become stronger allies, we have a moral and common sense obligation to embrace them and acknowledge their good work. The effort and influence he has exerted for trans people has mattered and has moved us down the field. It will be somewhat harder to advance our cause in Congress with the Congressman gone, but justice will be won for trans, gay and bi people and Congressman Frank will have been a very important part of that.”
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:
“Rep. Frank is a national leader of unparalleled stature when it comes to fighting for what is right — not just for the LGBT community, but for all Americans. His determined leadership, unwavering commitment for more than two decades, and tireless advocacy were key to bringing about the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The team of Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and Steny Hoyer ensured a successful House repeal vote and put tremendous pressure on the Senate and White House to act in the closing days of the last Congress. We at SLDN will miss Rep. Frank terribly as we press forward, but we know that wherever his journey takes him next, he will be fighting alongside us until we reach the day when all service members are treated equally.”
Jerame Davis, interim executive director, National Stonewall Democrats:
“From the first time I met Rep. Frank at a Stonewall Democrats function in Indianapolis, I have always respected his ability to cut through the malarky and move the standard forward. Not only is he full of searing ripostes and witty bon mots, he has been a tireless advocate for LGBT equality for decades. He has been an original co-sponsor of almost every pro-LGBT piece of legislation introduced in the House and he strongly championed the Hate Crimes Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, both of which are now law. As a founder of our organization, he holds a special place place in our hearts and we wish him all the best in whatever comes next.”
Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO, Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund:
“Barney Frank’s political career may be coming to an end, but his legacy will outlive us all. His decision to come out as gay more than two decades ago gave LGBT Americans an authentic voice and a persistent champion in Washington. He has used that voice loudly and often, speaking personally, humorously and effectively about the hopes and challenges of Americans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We will miss that voice very much. The good news is that Congressman Frank has also inspired a new generation of LGBT leaders who are following in his footsteps and choosing to serve in public office openly, honestly and unafraid to be themselves. More than simply inspiring them, he has helped them run and win, and he has been an enormously supportive and generous friend to the Victory Fund. We are grateful for Congressman Frank’s service to his country, his enduring honesty and his remarkable leadership in the fight to make our country freer and fairer for all Americans.”
Joe Solmonese, president, Human Rights Campaign:
“Barney Frank has exemplified true leadership over his more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. As the first openly gay Member of Congress, Barney defied stereotypes and kicked doors open for LGBT Americans. Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act would never have happened without his leadership. But it goes beyond that. His service as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee during a time of great economic upheaval made a gay man one of the most powerful people in the country and he used that power for great good. America, Massachusetts and LGBT people are better off for Barney Frank’s service.”