[Photo: Rep. Barney Frank talks to reporters in D.C. about his congressional retirement on Nov. 29, 2011. (Photo by Chris Geidner.)]
He's retiring from Congress at the end of his current term, but news comes today that Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank (D) is adding at least one new commitment to his life.
Initially reported by NECN, Frank's communications director confirmed to Metro Weekly that the 71-year-old representative is marrying is his partner, Jim Ready, in Massachusetts, although no date has been set.
The two have been together since the spring of 2007, according to Frank's office.
Ready, who is 42 years old, lives in Ogunquit, Maine, where, per Frank's office, he has a small business doing custom awnings, carpentry, painting, welding and other general handyman services. He also is a photographer.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund's president, Chuck Wolfe, said in a statement, "We are thrilled for Barney and Jim, and offer them both our congratulations and best wishes.
"As one of the world's most visible out elected officials, Barney Frank has long used his position and influence to draw attention to the freedoms LGBT Americans deserve but still do not enjoy," Wolfe said. "It's fitting that as his time in Congress comes to a close, he will finally take advantage of the freedom to marry in his home state of Massachusetts."
Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry who recently married his husband, told Metro Weekly he was "thrilled" by the news.
"Mazel tov! As someone still aglow from the joy of my own wedding and belated honeymoon, still awash in the love, good wishes, and celebration that so many have shared with us, I am thrilled that Barney and Jim will soon experience the same 'yes, it does feel different' happiness," he wrote. "And that through their exercise of the freedom to marry, they, too will touch and move others."
Frank would be the first member of Congress to be legally wed to a same-sex partner. Because the Defense of Marriage Act's federal definition of marriage limits federal marriage recognition to opposite-sex couples, however, certain federal benefits that otherwise would accrue to a spouse would not apply to Ready.
One of the plaintiffs in the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders's ongoing lawsuit challenging Section 3 of DOMA, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, actually is the same-sex widow of a former member of Congress. Although they married after Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) left Congress, Dean Hara would have been entitled to benefits that are given to surviving spouses of federal employees had he had an opposite-sex spouse.
As he said in a GLAD statement about the Gill lawsuit, however, "Gerry was a public servant for 27 years, worked hard for our country, and paid as much into the system as anyone else. But after he died, I was treated differently than other surviving spouses. Every federal employee counts on their surviving spouses having basic protections, but the federal government denies me those protections because of DOMA."
Of the news of Frank's plans, GLAD's executive director, Lee Swislow, told Metro Weekly, "Whenever two people express their love and commitment to each other through marriage, it is a cause for celebration. It is ironic, though, that because of DOMA and because Barney is a federal employee, Jim will not be eligible for the kind of benefits other spouses receive."
Swislow added: "We certainly hope our lawsuits challenging DOMA will be successful and change all of that."
Although Frank will be leaving the House at the conclusion of the 112th Congress, he has said he plans to continue to impact public policy through ''speaking, writing and in other ways advocating for the changes that I think are necessary'' rather than by ''trying to bring them about inside our constricting political process.''
Frank first won election to Congress the same year Ronald Reagan was elected president. After his 1980 election, Frank served without being out until 1987. According to the Victory Fund, which supports and encourages out LGBT elected officials, "When Barney Frank came out in 1987, fewer than 50 openly LGBT Americans were serving in public office at any level of government in the U.S. Today more than 500 are."
Although Frank's pending nuptials would make him the first married out LGBT member of Congress, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has the distinction of being the first gay dad serving in Congress. He and his partner, Marlon Reis, celebrated the birth of their son, Caspian Julius, in September 2011.
[NOTE: This post was updated throughout the day as additional information became available.]