Barney Frank, the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out as gay, will now be the first sitting member of Congress to enter a same-sex marriage. Frank will wed his boyfriend of almost 5 years, Jim Ready, in the state of Massachusetts.
This engagement is more than a statement of commitment between Congressman Frank and his partner. It is a milestone in the ongoing fight for marriage equality.
There are several reasons for this.Congressman Frank, an accomplished politician, gives a positive example of a person entering a same-sex marriage.
Frank’s 31-year career as a congressman includes a track record of protecting women’s reproductive rights, reducing recidivism and fighting for gay rights. Already a positive role model, he helps provide a positive face to same-sex marriage.
“The best antidote to prejudice is reality, because prejudice is by definition based on ignorance of people’s real condition,” Frank said after he came out in the late 1980s,
The same is true now. An intelligent and accomplished congressman marrying a man he loves provides a tangible example of why same-sex marriage is a good thing.
Frank’s engagement may also serve as the impetus for other politicians to come out as gay or go public with their own plans for a same-sex marriage.
Beyond inspiring others and lending a face to same-sex marriage, the engagement also reminds us of the many barriers gay couples still face. Even in states where same-sex marriage is legal, like Massachusetts, the Defense of Marriage Act does not afford gay couples certain rights that straight couples enjoy.
Frank’s case provides a particularly frustrating example, as Ready will not be eligible for the benefits that spouses of straight federal employees receive.
This country has come a long way in terms of gay rights, and this engagement exemplifies the United States’ increased acceptance of same-sex relationships and the gay community.
Full equality, however, still lies out of reach. DOMA delegitimizes same-sex marriages that should be treated the same as their opposite-sex counterparts. The only difference between same-sex and different-sex relationships are the genders; however, the law currently gives full rights to different-sex marriages and withholds certain rights to same-sex marriages.
One political figure announcing his engagement is a start, but there is still a long way to go until the gay community experiences true equality.