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Rep. Barney Frank on ENDA, DADT and How LGBTs Should Lobby Like the NRA

Rep. Barney Frank on ENDA, DADT and How LGBTs Should Lobby Like the NRA

by Karen Ocamb on April 12, 2010

Barney Ron JohnOpenly gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was in Los Angeles over the weekend for an appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show and to speak at the Greenlining Institute’s Economic Summit.  He also attended a Hollywood fundraiser thrown Saturday by attorney and former gubernatorial candidate, Ron Palmieri and his partner, Jeffrey Simpson. California Assembly Speaker John Perez also attended, lending his support to Frank and his Congressional and political leadership.

I had a chance to talk with Frank before he spoke to the gathering. Among a number of topics, he talked about the “good provisions” for transgenders in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and how he thinks the bill will pass the House but still stresses that the LGBT community needs to call their own representatives to make sure the votes are there.

Barney Frank:

Barney Frank cu“I’m hoping to get a vote on it in committee [House Committee on Education and Labor, chaired by California Democrat George Miller].  I’m doing a lot of work on it quietly, to get the issues involving transgender access to rooms where people have their clothes off. That’s a fact that you have to deal with, particularly for people who have not had an operation.

And we’ve worked hard. The chairman of the committee involved – George Miller – had a major role in healthcare. But within the last few weeks, just before we left [for Spring break], we had a meeting in the Speaker’s office [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] with the Majority Leader [Steny Hoyer] and myself and chairman of the committee George Miller – and we had a lot of things worked out,

So what the committee needs to do now is make sure we have the votes. There’s only one way to do it – it doesn’t mean marching, it doesn’t mean waving signs. It means calling up their representatives – the members of the House who represent them – and say, please vote for this bill and please oppose watering down the transgender provision. But the House has already passed the bill without it, which helped us because it helps us focus. Call people and say we want you to support the bill and don’t water down the transgender provision – because that’s the point of political trouble. And they should start calling now. I believe we’ll get a vote sometime this month.”

I asked about Kerry Eleveld’s story on the whip count on the ENDA bill. But Frank said that was a distraction.

“I don’t want people to get bogged down in – not just with the leadership helping us. What people need to focus on is lobbying their legislators. We have all that we need form the leadership to bring this bill up. We now need to get the votes. Yes, we will be checking the membership to see where they are. But the more people have called the better that count will be.”

I noted the concern that even if ENDA passes the House, it won’t got anywhere as a stand-alone bill and must be attached to another piece of legislation. Frank said:

“That’s a problem. But again – I’ve been begging people for years to lobby their senators. And I have very little sympathy with the armchair strategists who say – making it a piece of another legislation is hard to do. I really advise people in the community not to take the easy way out of trying to devise parliamentary tricks to get over the obstacles.

Yes, as soon as they’re through lobbying their representatives, they’ve got to lobby senators. That’s the answer. There’s no trickery here. There’s no slight of hand. We need to get the votes and they’ve got to call senators and get senators to vote for it – and if they can’t get senators to vote for it – they shouldn’t be surprised if we lose.

Look I’ve been telling people for years, we have a problem because still there’s some resistance on the transgender issue. People don’t want to hear that. I think maybe they’re afraid of having it tested. I believe the House will send the Senate a bill that will have good transgender protections – people have been telling me it’s no problem. We will mark it up. Well, let’s see. The only thing people should do if they want to get this bill passed is call their representatives, call their senators and after they’ve called – get other people to call their representatives and their senators, not people from some other place.”

Are petitions effective?

“It has less effect. It’s better than nothing. Sending in your own individual letter is the best or your own email or go in to see them. Sending the same copy of a letter – it’s better than nothing. Signing a petition is least important because it doesn’t indicate that much activity.”

Rep. Barney Frank and California Assembly Speaker John Perez

Rep. Barney Frank and California Assembly Speaker John Perez

I asked because it seems that some people think that just by signing a petition, they’ve completed their duty as an activist. Frank said:

“Or by marching on Washington. They tell me they were going to put pressure on Congress. All they put pressure on was the grass. Members of Congress didn’t know it [the National Equality March] happened because they didn’t call anybody. And I don’t understand why they think that works. By the way – you know who understands that? The National Rifle Association. They don’t have shoot-ins and rifle marches – they write and call. The NRA – person for person –  they are extremely influential because they lobby that way.

So again – we’ve got the parliamentary ducks in order. Help us get the votes.”

How has the transgender issue been handled?

“Essentially, there are full protections for people who are transgender with a couple of provisos: One – the employer can ask for a gender consistent dress code. No mustaches and dresses. Two – people with one set of genitals do not have a legal right to get naked in front of the other set, is the basic way to put it. Some accommodation has to be made there.

If you insist on the right for unrestricted access to bathrooms – we lose. And we’re making some accommodations here. And we worked it out with the transgender community. We had people very upset when we raised it – it because clear we couldn’t pass the bill without it.”

I spoke with Rep. Miller’s press secretary Aaron Albright about when we can expect a vote on ENDA. He said “nothing is scheduled yet, “ thought Chairperson Miller “committed to a vote early this year.” I asked him when “early” ends – but he would not speculate on when a date might be set.

I also asked Frank about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the effort to repeal that this year. Frank said:

“I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed with the administration, in part. There have been some good things. Admiral Mullen saying what he said was spectacular.  And enforcing it the way it was originally supposed to – even though I didn’t like it – discharges can be cut by over 90 percent.

But there will be a vote in the House. Rep. Patrick Murphy is going to offer his amendment.  I think we’ll pass it in the House and then in the Senate – I’m told by some of the Senate leadership that they don’t think they have the votes to repeal it. People ought to talk to Sen. Carl Levin, he’s the key guy who’s our great ally.”

Might Sen. Levin offer his own amendment? Frank said, “Here’s my perspective: Senator Levin is our friend and he’s thinking serious about it and you ought to talk to him.”

I asked about the lack of leadership from President Obama on getting a bill to repeal DADT this year. Frank said:

“His not being for it will give people an excuse to not vote for it. Thing is – we’ve done hate crimes. We do ENDA.  It’s a big agenda all at once. At this point – the President’s refusal to call for repeal this year is a problem.”

Is there still time? Frank said, “Yeah. The Military Re-Authorization Bill still hasn’t come up in the House and they’re going to come up. So that’s not a problem. It’s always attached – that’s how it was done in the first place.”

I also asked Frank about the two most recently proposed bills – one to extend COBRA benefits to domestic partners offered by Sen. Barbara Boxer and one to extend Social Security benefits to domestic partners coming up from Rep. Linda Sanchez. Frank:

Rep. Barney Frank with his partner Jim Ready, left, and California Assembly Speaker John Perez, right

Rep. Barney Frank with his partner Jim Ready, left, and California Assembly Speaker John Perez, right

“I was very disappointed that that [COBRA] was left out of the healthcare bill. And that’s part of the probelm we have – we have no Republicans on the healthcare bill. We tried to get the tax benefits and we lost because this whole domestic partnership thing is controversial with no Republican votes and the margin was so close. I was very frustrated. I worked very hard to try to get that done. So I am not optimistic about anything in that area.

I think it’s very important. The only chance we have on any domestic partnership thing this year would be the bill I had once introduced – Tammy [Baldwi] picked it up – for federal employee benefits [the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act]. That one has a chance – I don’t think any other domestic partnership has a chance.”

Same with the proposed Social Security bill. “I don’t think any of it has a chance right now,” Frank said.

I asked him if any of these bills could be added as a “fix” to the healthcare reform bill. He got angry:

“You’re driving me nuts! There are no tricks. There are no fixes. You need the votes. There are no ways to sneak it in. You need the votes for it and it’s controversial. People have these crazy views – what does a fix mean? Does it make it easier because we call it a fix? That doesn’t work. It’s a recognition of same sex domestic partnerships. You can call it fix. You can call it ice cream. It’s still the same thing. Please stop trying to say ‘Well, we’ll put it on this bill, we’ll put it on that bill.’ You still need to get the votes.”

I explained that for those of us watching the healthcare debate who do not live inside the Beltway, we constantly heard analysts say that the public option or other measures were taken out of the bill to pass it – but they would be put in as “fixes” later. Hence my using the term “fix” to describe a way to get the bill passed. Frank then understood the framework I was using and said:

“Those are relatively non-controversial. Lobbying legislators is hard work and people want to do everything else but. They want to have marches. They want to think of strategies. And all what we need to know is to do that. They ought to think more like the NRA.”

Host Ron Palmieri center, his partner Jeffrey Simpson left, and Barney Frank

Host Ron Palmieri center, his partner Jeffrey Simpson left, and Barney Frank

Fundraiser host Ron Palieri noted that the event was not so much to help Frank win re-election as to help him raise money to help other legislators and candidates get elected and to fight back against the right wing.

In his remarks, Frank said that the “explicit bigotry” of the right wing didn’t work so they are now trying to divide Democrats – to get African Americans and Hispanics to be antigay, for instance. Having one of the most prominent Hispanics be the Speaker of the California Assembly – John Perez – helps confound those efforts – especially since Perez’s jurisdiction is “bigger than most European countries.”

“We are fighting for the soul of this country,” Frank said, talking about how he and his partner Jim Ready were “assaulted by a mob” after leaving his DC office. Frank said that while there “abusive” people on the Left during the 1960s and 1970s – they didn’t have national radio talk show hosts agreeing and magnifying them and their tactics through a “right wing echo chamber.”

And, Frank noted, even if a story is implausible – it still must be refuted. He told a story of how right wing talk show host Laura Ingraham tweeted that “sources” had told her that Barney Frank was quitting Congress to take a lush job with a bank. “I don’t know if the sources where inside or outside of her head – but there were no call to check the facts.”

He also talked about after January 21, 2009 – the day Obama was sworn in – “everything went south” and since then there has been “wide spread amnesia.” For instance, “the administration passed the Recovery Bill – which most people know as the Stimulus Bill. In my experience, most people would rather be stimulated than in recovery.”

And even though unemployment has decreased, for elected Democrats facing re-election, “no one has a bumper sticker that says: Things Would Have Sucked Worse Without Me!”

Republicans, Frank said, “want to demoralize our side” and have resorted to incivility and name-calling. “I get after-death threats – but I’m not convinced they can carry that out.”

{ 15 trackbacks }

ENDA And Barney Frank’s Trans Penis Panic | The Transadvocate
April 13, 2010 at 5:35 AM
Barney Frank: Marches Don’t Work
April 13, 2010 at 6:24 AM
Remainders: Tone | Gabbur
April 13, 2010 at 7:00 AM
ADF Alliance Alert » “Rep. Barney Frank on ENDA, DADT and How LGBTs Should Lobby Like the NRA”
April 13, 2010 at 11:05 AM
Montanans Tread Where Architects of ENDA Cannot? « Dented Blue Mercedes
April 13, 2010 at 3:28 PM
TheColu.mn » Blog Archive » The National: Gay Church Destroyed By Arson
April 14, 2010 at 9:37 AM
Obama And The Lying Skanky Teabaggetry Of Gay Bloggers | RENWL
April 16, 2010 at 1:39 PM
Anatomy Of A Smear Campaign: Obama And The Lying Skanky Teabaggetry Of Gay Bloggers | RENWL
April 17, 2010 at 7:01 PM
The Blind Push For ENDA And Your Advocacy Dollars | The Transadvocate
April 19, 2010 at 8:01 AM
GetEQUAL Gets Serious About Gay Rights, Obama Doesn’t | For Want of a Nail | A blog for leftist politics
April 20, 2010 at 7:10 PM
DADT Media Tracker | Sayen CroWolf
April 29, 2010 at 2:18 PM
DADT: President Obama, Your Opinion Matters, Please Clarify. | The New Civil Rights Movement
May 6, 2010 at 1:34 PM
Media Backgrounder on DADT Repeal Efforts via SLDN.org | Sayen CroWolf
May 11, 2010 at 2:48 PM
UPDATE: Media Backgrounder on DADT via SLDN.org | Sayen CroWolf
May 14, 2010 at 5:40 PM
Not to Praise Barney Frank… – Huffington Post (blog)
November 29, 2011 at 9:54 AM

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Rodney Hoffman April 12, 2010 at 2:19 PM

About this: ” He told a story of how right wing talk show host Laura Ingram tweeted that “sources” had told her that Barney Frank was quitting Congress to take a lush job with a bank.”

I guessing you mean Laura INGRAHAM. See


Karen Ocamb April 12, 2010 at 2:50 PM

Yes, thank you. I’ll correct it now.


Lucrece April 12, 2010 at 11:24 PM

Well, I don’t know about African Americans, but you don’t need to get Hispanics to be antigay.

If we’re talking immigrants, Hispanics are undoubtedly no different from what you’d find in Texas or North Florida– rather religion and machismo fueled homophobia. I’ve lived in Venezuela and other Latin American countries for most of my life, and there’s no sugarcoating the fact that Hispanics are behind.

If we’re talking about “Hispanics”; that is, the American invention of a race of second and third wave immigrants with physical features not resembling the typical WASP, sure. That’s mostly because they’re assimilated young people and hardly Hispanic; they can barely speak proper Spanish and sure as hell don’t know crap about Latin American history and customs across the Southern half of the continent.

And it was not long ago that when the DNC took up the issue of making quotas for gay representation, the African American and Hispanic contingent was vile in its resistance.

While more than two thirds of Republicans are solidly anti-gay, polls have Democrats at 1/3 being unreceptive to gay rights. That’s a rather sizable portion that the likes of Joe Jervis in their partisan fervor would like to keep other LGBT people from noticing.

Ultimately, the support doesn’t come from Barney Frank– he pulls for his partisan interests and personal ambitions. The organizations are just as ethically bankrupt, often being vehicles for late night galas and political access regardless of the best interests of the community.

Keep the orgs local and accountable– most importantly, divorce them from partisanship and reward those who serve the interests, regardless of what letter lies besides them. If a Republican has a good record of voting for gay people, but a Democrat who only shares the support verbally gets the votes while doing nothing just because of partisan indoctrination, what good will that do?

As you can see, if we continue to rely only on one party for support, we’re gonna see ourselves in quite a pickle if the basket we put all our eggs on gets thrown off the game.


Nicola Cowie April 13, 2010 at 2:02 AM

OK about the bathroom issue…

Just why is this an issue? How many times in a public restroom/bathroom has ANYONE seen the genitals of another person using that facility?

I am of course excluding the urinal stalls in the guys’ restroom.



gaylib April 13, 2010 at 5:53 AM

Frank is a disgusting toad. He is a leech on our community and uses us for his own advantage. He hasn’t done shit for us and never will. And talk about racist! As if Latinos and African Americans are so weak minded that they can be made “anti-gay” by the right wing.


devon April 13, 2010 at 7:53 AM

Hopefully Frank is right about the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act’s chances at passage.
Little seems to be reported about this bill but maybe no news is good news.


Karen Ocamb April 13, 2010 at 7:58 AM

Devon -
I’m waiting for Tammy’s office to get back to me with info on the status of Tammy’s bill – and whether it includes COBRA and Social Security coverage as well.

Thanks -
Karen O.


AndrewW April 13, 2010 at 11:22 AM

There is NO evidence that lobbying politicians, or calling, emailing or letter-writing has ever changed the mind or vote of a Member of the US Congress. This, despite the fact that we have spent +$550 million for HRC’s lobbying efforts and the LGBT Community has made millions of calls and emails.

The FACT is anti-gay positions are non-negotiable because they are based on the morality and/or the majority beliefs of a politician’s constituents.

Frank only suggests lobbying because it is part of his game – politics. There is no “political solution” to LGBT equality. We will not win until we get people to join us and stand for our equality. That means talking to our friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers and ASKING them to support equality.

We must go from a weak minority to a powerful majority by asking people to join us. A politician will not change their mind/vote until we demonstrate that their constituents are standing with us for full equality.

Playing “politics” and believing that Barney Frank or Barak Obama will “save us” is foolish and lazy.


Ronald Jason Palmieri April 13, 2010 at 12:49 PM

Dear Karen — I note the article fails to mention that the party was Co-Hosted by me AND my partner, Jeffery Simpson. Please correct that. We both worked very hard to make this event the political and financial success that we achieved.

It was our pleasure to have you at our home, Manor Fleur de Lis. and a great honor for us to host two heroes of our community and the nation. Thanks for all your work to keep us informed and honest. Hope to see you again soon….Big Daddy Ron Palmieri


Karen Ocamb April 13, 2010 at 1:56 PM

Ron – done. KO


Stonewaller April 14, 2010 at 12:32 AM

LUCRECE I am an ethnologist whose specialization is American minority groups. First generation learn the language of their parents because it is esential for communication. They also learn the culture of the
“old country” from their parents. Second generation learn as much or as little language as they have to communicate with any living grandparents. They learn less about the culture for two reasons: 1) they are further removed from it; and 2) they view themselves as Americans first and descendants of whatever second.

In fact, second, third and even fourth generation Latinos fall back on the native language, Spanish, to a greater degree than other ethnic groups and to such a point that it frequently impacts negatively on their socioeconomic mobility separate and apart from whatever racial discrimination there may be.

I am also a human rights activist. This includes having been the youngest regional coordinator for the
Southern Christian Leadership Poor People’s Campaign, one of few Anglo organizers for United Farmworkers &
a participant in rallies, protests & demonstrations immmediately following the Stonewall Rebellion which have since come to be known as the “3 Days of Rage.”

I agree with you about the inadvisability of social justice movement’s putting all their “eggs in one basket.” As a result of the National Organization for Women going from being nonpartisan to wedding with the Democratic Party, we lost the ERA. HRC has made a similar commitment with similar results.

I agree with you about the inadvisab


Stonewaller April 14, 2010 at 1:01 AM

The issue is not what you or I think, but what others including Members of Congress think. Yesterday eve,
I attended a fundraiser for a woman who may become the first trans state legislator in the country.

She recognized what she called “shower shoe” issue.
People can be irrational. Congresswo/men are people.
Consequently, they may be irrational and we have to deal with it. Calling them irrational won’t do.

Latino Americans and African Americans did not need any help from Republicans, Conservatives or the Right Wing to be anti-gay. Latinos are Catholics. On so-called moral issues such as same sex marriage, their religion can factor into votes. As it happens, the majority of Latinos support “spousal rights” for Gays and Lesbians though they may have difficulty with the word “marriage.” Many African Americans got through slavery with the help of their belief in God. As the successful DC marriage campaign demonstrated, Blacks can be persuaded. The presumption that minorities shouldn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t discriminate against other minorities is ahistorical. Furthermore, the psychological concept of “reaction formation” means that those who view themselves as victims of bias and prejudice discriminate more not less than others.

Charter of the National Gay Task Force only allowed
women to be co-director. I was only male volunteer
who supported a handful of females in changing the name of the organization to National Gay AND LESBIAN Task Force. A lawyer, I then personally revised the charter to allow women to be sole executive director.
This is just one example of discrimination by one minority, in this case LGBT, against another, women.

I have been human rights activist for 50 years. The Much as the Civil Rights community was sexist and the Feminist community was homophobic, the LGBT community
is ablist. Moreover, I have never met bunch of more classist, racist, sexist and ageist — not to mention
biphobic, transphobic and heterophobic people — than the Lesbian and Gay community (including its leaders).

ANDREW W Actually, you are completely wrong. Not only are there anecdotal reports, there are studies which demonstrate lobbying is an effective tool for persuading executives, legislators and others to support laws favorable to one’s cause.

On other hand, post Prop 8 study by CUNY government professor the Gay Dan Pinello showed that “coming out” has no effect on voting patterns. 100% contrary to statements by HRC Executive Director Joe Solomnese,
“coming out” is a personal act not a political one. Unless one terms every personal act a political one in which case the words personal and poltical have no meaning. What you say sounds good and would make things alot easier for us in the quest for social justice. Unfortunately, like alot of other mythology,
such as what happened at Stonewall, it is not true.


Mekah Gordon, Ph.D. April 14, 2010 at 2:29 PM

Barney Frank, only cares about Barney Frank.
He has been an opponent of Transgender Rights ever since I’ve known him.
His lack luster commitment toward Unequivocal Equality for the TG Community, is widely known.
I do not trust him.
Regardless of his involvement in ENDA, Barney (“The Leopard”) Frank, hasn’t once, ever changed his “Spots!”
If he’s “Getting Onboard,” then Frank has made some sort of deal, that he’s benefitting from.
Call me a cynic, but I know his ‘smoke and mirrors’ way of thinking.


Gary Miller April 21, 2010 at 5:13 PM

I admire Barney Frank. He is a great spokesman for our rights. He said we should contact our own congress people and ask them to support ENDA. Wouldnt it be easier if we knew the bill #?


Karen Ocamb April 21, 2010 at 5:18 PM

The House version of ENDA is H.R.3017.

I’ve asked HRC to please generate a call list which I’ll post separately.


Christal Nelon July 11, 2010 at 2:50 AM

excellent take pleasure in your writing involving


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