Barney Frank: 'I Am Worried' About LGBTQ Rights

"They plan to increase the right of people to say, 'I am religiously opposed to this,'" the pioneering gay former congressman said.
Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, who fought hard for the queer community as one of the few openly gay House members throughout the ’90s and until his retirement in 2013, recently expressed his concerns about President Donald Trump’s administration rolling back LGBTQ rights.

“I am worried,” he said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress on Wednesday. “They are smart enough to know that an all-out assault on our rights wouldn’t work. Reality has beaten bigotry. Everything they said was going to cause disaster ― same-sex marriage, LGBT openness in the military ― [didn’t happen].”

Frank specifically referred to attacks on transgender rights, which Trump has promulgated, including banning transgender people from serving openly in the military earlier this year. (Courts have blocked the ban as lawsuits continue to proceed.)

“With regard to transgender people I ask, every time this comes up, ’Are there any examples?’” he said. “They talk about the terrible things that are going to happen when these men put on dresses and stalk the bathrooms, and there are no examples of that. You know that if that had been happening, if people had been using the transgender rights issue to be abusive, we’d know it. There are zero examples of anything like that happening.”

“But here’s the problem,” Frank continued. “They aren’t going to make a broad assault, but particularly since they got [Neil] Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice, what they plan to do is increase the right of people to say, ‘I’m religiously opposed to this’ ― to recognizing our rights. And in their view, they can go beyond participating in a marriage. They can refuse to hire you, et cetera. So that’s the scary part, and that’s the part we’re going to have to fight.”

Despite his fears about the uphill battle the queer community currently faces, Frank said he’s confident the activism and organizing he’s seen since the election will zero in on the true challenge ahead.

“The right of any individual to say, ‘My religion says these are terrible people, and I don’t have to recognize their rights’ ― that’s the fight,” he said.

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