Rep. Barney Frank Supports Democratic Opponent of Gay Republican

Posted by Justin Snow
September 14, 2012 2:44 PM |

Out gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) continued his campaign against gay Republicans yesterday when he voiced his support for the Democratic opponent of a gay Republican running for Congress in Massachusetts.

Thumbnail image for Richardtisei.jpgFrank put his support behind incumbent Democratic Rep. John Tierney, whose 6th District seat in Congress, which he has held since 1997, is being challenged by out gay Republican Richard Tisei.

Although Tisei, who has served in the Massachusetts state Legislature for 26 years, has garnered the coveted endorsement of the Victory Fund, Frank said his election would do nothing more than secure a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and thus block gay-rights legislation.

"The fact that Richard Tisei is openly gay is a good thing," Frank said, according to the Associated Press. "The problem is that it is of no use to us."

Tisei is a moderate Republican who supports marriage equality and is pro-choice, but supports conservative fiscal policies. Although running in a heavily Democratic state, his moderate social views and record of working across party lines have propelled his campaign against Tierney, who has faced scrutiny for the October 2010 conviction of his wife for tax fraud.

In a statement following Frank's remarks, Tierney affirmed his support for LGBT-rights, stating, "I have continually supported equal rights of all Americans and although we have made significant strides toward equality, we still have a long way to go. I will keep fighting to end discrimination against LGBT Americans."

The Victory Fund, which works to elect qualified LGBT public officials through increased strategic, technical and financial support, dismissed Frank's assertion that Tisei's election would hurt gay-rights legislation and focused on the broader significance of his candidacy.

"The Victory Fund was proud to endorse Richard Tisei, and we stand with him as he seeks to represent the people of the 6th District in Washington," said Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe in a statement. "We need authentic and courageous voices like his and Barney Frank's challenging both parties to change, and advocating for the freedoms all LGBT Americans deserve."

Wolfe acknowledged Frank's significance to the broader gay-rights movement, having become the first member of Congress to willingly come out, in 1981. However, Wolfe said change can only come by bringing LGBT voices to the table on both sides of the aisle.

"Just as Congressman Frank was able to help persuade Democrats to turn away from an anti-LGBT record over the more than 25 years he served as an openly gay member of the House, we believe Richard Tisei's personal influence in the Republican caucus has the potential to change the hearts and minds of colleagues," Wolfe said. "That is how real change begins."

If elected, Tisei would become the first out gay Republican freshman elected to Congress and the first Massachusetts Republican elected to the House in 15 years.

Frank's endorsement comes after he stood by his controversial labeling of Log Cabin Republicans as "Uncle Toms" earlier this week. LCR has branded Frank a bully for his remarks and sought to capitalize on Frank's unpopularity among conservatives in fundraising emails, asking for donations in order to "send a clear message to the Barney Franks of the world."

Earlier this week, Tisei repudiated the Republican Party's national platform, describing the document, which opposes marriage equality and supports the Defense of Marriage Act, as espousing "beliefs that exclude many from our party, including myself."

In a letter to the chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, Tisei said that as a "live-and-let-live" Republican, he believes the government should "get off our backs, out of our wallets, and away from the bedroom."

Last night, the Massachusetts party took note and voted to stick with its state platform, which does not mention marriage or abortion, and table consideration of the national platform until after the election.

[Photo: Richard Tisei]

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