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James Ready (left) and Rep. Barney Frank.
Representative Barney Frank wed his longtime partner, James Ready, on July 7, 2012, becoming the first sitting Congressman to enter into a same-sex marriage. In what Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times described as a "low-key ceremony on the banks of the Charles River," the men exchanged rings and vows.
During the brief ceremony, which was officiated by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, the couple promised, according to the Washington Post, "to love each other and be each other's best friend, / In sickness and in health, / In Congress or in retirement, / Whether the surf is up or the surf's flat, / For richer or for poorer, / Under the Democrats or the Republicans, / Whether the slopes are powdery or icy, / Whether the book reviews are good or bad, / For better or for worse, / On MSNBC or on Fox, / For as long as you both shall live." They then exchanged wedding bands that were designed by Ready.
Frank, who has served in Congress since 1980, is known for his intelligence, his quick and acerbic wit, and his spirited defense of his social and political beliefs. He has been a leader not only in the cause of gay and lesbian rights, but also on issues including fair housing, consumer rights, banking, and immigration. In 1987, in response to a reporter's question, he became the first Congressman to voluntarily acknowledge his homosexuality.
Ready, a carpenter and welder who owns a small shop, Jim of Most Trades, in Ogunquit, Maine, met in 2005 at a local fundraiser that he attended with his former partner, Robert Palmer, who had served as an advisor to former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.
At the time, Palmer was suffering from a terminal illness. Frank was impressed by Ready's devotion to his partner. The two men kept in touch during Palmer's illness. When he died in January 2007, Frank flew to Maine to comfort his distraught friend.
Their platonic friendship gradually developed into a romantic relationship, as their dinners turned into dates. They began alternating weekends in Maine and Washington, D.C.
During the economic meltdown of September 2008, during which Frank, then Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, played a key role in crafting legislation to stem the freefall and to increase transparency in the financial markets, Ready proved a supportive and calming presence in a trying time.
Among the guests at the wedding were Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, Senator John Kerry, Representatives Dennis J. Kucinich, Steny H. Hoyer, and Niki Tsongas.
At the reception following the ceremony, Pelosi said that it was appropriate that a landmark same-sex wedding take place around the Fourth of July. "It's about expanding freedom," she said. "This opportunity was a long time coming."
Frank and Ready are also cognizant of the historic significance of their marriage. Frank, who will not seek reelection to another term in Congress, wanted to be married while still serving in Washington. At first, Ready wanted to wait until Frank retired so they could have a more private ceremony.
But he decided that their wedding could be reassuring to young people. "The kids that are going to see us, and feel strong enough to be able to come out and be who they are. That gives me more encouragement that I'm doing the right thing," he said.
The couple did however put limits on access to the wedding. They barred news reporters and they decided not to invite the President and the First Lady.
In an appearance on C-Span in May, Frank said that while he would be delighted to have them as guests, he would not want the disruptions caused by a Presidential appearance.
"We're having this in the city I live in, in Newton, Massachusetts, on a Saturday afternoon. I don't want to be accused of having shut down the entire region for a five-mile radius on a holiday weekend. I don't want my guests going through a magnetometer. I would be flattered to have the president do that, but it would ruin the party to have the Secret Service. I'm not critical of them, but they can go take their layered protection of the president somewhere else. Not to my party."
Although most media are reporting that Frank is the first Congressman to enter into a same-sex marriage, that needs to be qualified. He is the first sitting Congressman to do so. The late Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts, who retired from Congress in 1995, married his partner Dean O'Hara soon after Massachusetts achieved marriage equality in 2004. O'Hara is a party to one of the lawsuits challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.
In the video below, Rachel Maddow announces Frank's engagment to Jim Ready.
In the video below, Frank, accompanied by Ready, accepts the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C.'s 2012 Harmony Award.