Gay congressman Frank speaks on U.S. GLBT gains

Seth Woehrle

Students came from as far away as the University of Wisconsin-Stout and St. John’s University to see one of the nation’s leading gay rights advocates dispense quick wit and cynical humor on campus Friday.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., spoke to a nearly full Cowles Auditorium about the progress achieved in gay rights over his two decades in office and of the distance left to go.

“What I’ve seen over these 21 years is an incredible amount of progress,” Frank said as he explained the importance of celebrating victories in the gay rights movement.

According to Frank, progress was achieved simply because gays, lesbians and bisexuals came out in large numbers.

Once a majority of straight Americans realized gays were
co-workers, family and friends, “it liberated them from the prejudice they thought they had,” Frank said.

“I think we have the majority of Americans on our side,” he added.

Opponents of gay rights – whom he calls “serial adulterers in defense of marriage” – have even had to shift their tactics, according to Frank.

Previously, ultra-conservatives could bank on a majority of voters being anti-gay or not caring about these issues, he said. Now, perceptions have shifted and most Americans are more understanding and sympathetic to their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered neighbors.

“Our opposition understand that if they were honest about their opposition to us, they would lose,” Frank said, noting the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s failed attempt – and subsequent apology – to link gays to the World Trade Center attack.

Frank’s final remarks were aimed at motivating the gay activists to move their efforts from demonstrating to political activity.

“When (conservatives) get angry, they vote,” he said. “When we get angry, we march.”

After the event, Frank estimated it would take 10 years to 15 years before more states made same-sex marriage legal, and 20 years to 25 years before it is accepted nationally.

He also thought liberals might be misjudging the Bush administration when they protest the current military mobilization.

“They may be prematurely judging George Bush; after all, it’s been more than two weeks since the terrible murders and we haven’t bombed anybody,” Frank said. “I think they’re being careful.”

But he did still caution that swelling patriotism might give conservatives more power.

“The possibility this may be used to advance conservative policy is a very real danger,” he said.

Some audience members appeared receptive to Frank’s philosophy.

“It’s really interesting to see how our elected representatives respond to their constituents and how they deal with pressures,” said Lea Ostendorf, a College of Liberal Arts senior. “I think we’re really fortunate at the ‘U’ to have access to these events.”


Seth Woehrle welcomes comments at [email protected]