Former Rep. Barney Frank said he wishes consideration of being LGBT would have been weighed more heavily as a diversity factor in the decision to appoint an interim U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
In a brief interview with the Washington Blade on Wednesday, Frank said he didn’t want to discuss his personal feelings about Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) passing him over for the role in favor of former chief of staff William “Mo” Cowan, but noted he was “eager to get in and work on the issues.”
“But let me tell you, there was one thing that sort of troubled me in the discussion about it — nobody was particularly quoted; they attributed something to governor’s office and others — was that the governor would want to appoint someone who’s either a minority or a woman,” Frank added. “And what troubled me is the question of LGBT people was just kind of swept out. I’ve never asked for any appointment based on me being gay, but when they begin talk about the importance of diversity and leave us out, that troubles me.”
While Cowan’s appointment was hailed a milestone for diversity in terms of race because he’s black, Frank said the lack of attention to being LGBT as a diversity factor suggests those involved with the decision were unaware of President Obama’s inaugural address in which he mentioned the 1969 Stonewall riots in the same line as other iconic civil rights moments.
“It’s almost as if some people didn’t listen to the president when he said, ‘Seneca, Stonewall and Selma,’ and didn’t hear the Stonewall part,” Frank said.
Additionally, Frank said he thinks being first the person in the Senate who’s in a same-sex marriage would have had an impact on other senators.
“Just as it was in the House, I think being a same-sex married couple in the Senate could have took an important lesson home to some of them,” Frank said.
Patrick’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.
The former lawmaker was public about his interest in the position of interim U.S. senator, telling the Boston Globe he believes his experience in finance would be beneficial as the Senate takes on budget issues.
Frank said he met Cowan a couple of times when they were working together on a project for Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district, but doesn’t know him well enough to evaluate whether he’d be a good interim senator.
“I don’t know him well,” Frank said. “I assume anybody is going to vote a particular way in Massachusetts. I don’t know him well enough to be able to judge.”
After announcing he was interested in the interim position, Frank reversed himself on earlier opposition to the appointment of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary based on 1998 anti-gay comments made against James Hormel and came out in support of the nomination. Hagel’s confirmation hearing is Thursday.
Even though he was passed over for the interim job, Frank said he’s still supportive of Hagel based on a desire to end the war in Afghanistan and reduce the military budget, despite those anti-gay remarks.
“I don’t think there’s any excuse for it; I wish Obama had appointed somebody else,” Frank said. “I guess what I have to say about Hagel, there’s an old Arab proverb, I’m told, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That makes Hagel my friend-enemy. My unhappiness over his bigoted comment is outweighed by the substance today of whether or not we pull out of Afghanistan and cut the military budget.”
Frank also had positive things to say about President Obama’s gay inclusion in the inaugural address, calling it a “victory lap” after Obama’s earlier endorsement of same-sex marriage and victory at the polls.
“When he did that, it was both a celebration and a reinforcement for the future,” Frank said.