The End of An Era: Rep. Barney Frank won’t seek Re-election in 2012

After serving for 30 years, Frank has announced that he will not be seeking another term in office. Metroweekly reports that the 71-year-old made the announcement official at a press conference at 11:00 am MTS.

Frank, who was first elected to national office in 1980 is the nation’s first congressman to voluntarily reveal his sexuality at a time when the subject was still taboo on Capital Hill. According to PinkNews,”He came out in 1987. Frank told the Washington Post the decision to make his sexuality public had been prompted by the death of Stewart McKinney, a bisexual Republican representative.

He said there had been “an unfortunate debate about ‘Was he or wasn’t he? Didn’t he or did he?’ I said to myself, I don’t want that to happen to me.”

He was also  chair of the powerful Financial Services Committee from 2007 until last year, when the democrats lost control of the house.

“Frank, first elected to Congress in 1980, is known as a principal architect of the country’s biggest overhaul of the banking and financial-industry regulations since the Depression. The 2010 law was aimed at preventing another meltdown of the financial services industry. It also created a new agency to protect consumers from unfair lending practices”, reports USA Today.

His time in office was not without a bit of scandal however.  As ABC News reports,”Frank admitted to paying a male prostitute who was living in his Capitol Hill apartment in the 1980s and servicing other clients there. He survived attempts to expel him from the House and stayed on to become one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington.”

As the news of Franks retirement spread through Washington LGBTQIA civil rights leaders were quick to praise the Congressman. Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, who  once worked for Frank, tells Metro Weekly, “Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act would never have happened without his leadership. But it goes beyond that. His service as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee during a time of great economic upheaval made a gay man one of the most powerful people in the country and he used that power for great good. America, Massachusetts and LGBT people are better off for Barney Frank’s service.”

CNN reports that Frank based his decision on a couple of factors including new redistricting in Massachusetts,”I will miss this job, (but) the district is very substantially changed” with roughly 325,000 new constituents, Frank told reporters. The veteran congressman said he was planning to retire after 2014 regardless, but said he didn’t “want to be torn” next year between the need to serve his existing constituents, reach out to new district residents, and protect his signature Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law.

President Barack Obama issued a statement praising Frank’s public service, calling the congressman a “fierce advocate for the people of Massachusetts and Americans everywhere who needed a voice.”

Watch the full announcement here.

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