Sunday, May 31

In the know: Congressman’s engagement is a step forward

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.

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