Barney Frank won’t not sponsor DOMA repeal — updated with response from Rep Nadler

Great. This is not what we need as the story on the issue of greatest concern to many in the community.

Barney has a “strategic difference” with the DOMA repeal sponsors, so he’s not sponsoring the DOMA repeal bill. Now, we all know Barney is wicked smart. Many people on the Hill and in the media look to Barney for perspective on LGBT-related legislation, so this sends a bad signal:

Frank said in an interview Friday with the Blade that he’s not a co-sponsor of the legislation because he has a “strategic difference” with people supporting the repeal legislation.

“It’s not anything that’s achievable in the near term,” he said. “I think getting [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and full domestic partner benefits for federal employees will take up all of what we can do and maybe more in this Congress.”

Frank also said that advocacy for the “certainty provision,” as described by Nadler, would create “political problems” in Congress.

“The provision that says you can take your benefits as you travel, I think, will stir up unnecessary opposition with regard to the question of are you trying to export it to other states,” he said. “If we had a chance to pass that, it would be a different story, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to rekindle that debate when there’s no chance of passage in the near term.”

The Human Rights Campaign, which is lobbying for DOMA repeal, declined to comment on Frank’s statements.

Frank said the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders lawsuit against DOMA, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, stands a better shot of overturning DOMA than congressional action. The lawsuit specifically targets the portion of DOMA that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

“That’s very thoughtful, very well done,” Frank said. “That’s the way we’ll win this.”

Maybe. But, I also want to see who in Congress is on our side and who isn’t. I’m glad Nadler is introducing a bill — and a very strong bill at that. I had a great conversation with Nadler about this issue at Netroots Nation last month. He’s a very savvy guy. It’s also good to see Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis on board already.

Repealing DOMA is an issue that warrants Congressional attention. Enough politicians sure tell us over and over that they support such a move. I want to see who really shows up. In the post-Prop. 8 world, this has become a critical issue for many in the community and there’s no reason not to get the legislative process started. Also, as for the concern about the “certainty provision,” there may be reason to negotiate at some point, but why start negotiating with ourselves now? That’s what progressives often do.

I’m sure many people will defend Barney, because Barney is so smart and wise and he’s been in Congress for so long. Most of the time I love Barney. But, sometimes, we really need our allies to be our allies, not just the smartest people around. This is about politics, too, not just policy.

UPDATE: Read Nadler’s response to Frank after the break.

The Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson, who wrote the original article, has updated his piece to include a response from Rep. Nadler:

Nadler defended the legislation in a statement, saying that claims made by repeal opponents shouldn’t prevent the bill’s introduction.

“Mr. Frank knows better than anyone that our opponents will falsely claim that any DOMA repeal bill ‘exports marriage’ in an effort to generate fear and misunderstanding,” Nadler said. “But the dishonest tactics of our opponents should not stop us from aggressively pushing to end this horrific discrimination now, as is the consensus of the nation’s top LGBT groups who all support this approach.”

Nadler emphasized that the proposed bill wouldn’t force any state to marry gay couples or recognize same-sex couples under state law.

“Our bill allows states to continue deciding those questions, while ensuring uniform access to critically important federal responsibilities and rights that hinge on marriage and upon which all married couples should be able to rely,” he said.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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