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social sciences

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Frank, Barney (b. 1940)  
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In the wake of the Times article, some called for Frank's resignation, but others, including Speaker of the House Thomas Foley, came to his defense.

Frank himself called for an investigation by the House ethics committee, which eventually concluded that there was no evidence that Frank had been aware of Gobie's prostitution operation but that he had arranged for the waiving of parking tickets that Gobie had received while using his car.

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After a bitter and occasionally raucous four-hour debate in July 1990, the full House voted to reprimand Frank, decisively rejecting a motion for expulsion proposed by conservative Republican Representative William Dannemeyer and another for censure put forth by Republican whip Newt Gingrich.

Frank's opponent in the next November's election, John Soto, made the Gobie episode a central theme of the campaign and even suggested that Frank should be tested for HIV and announce the results. His strategy failed, and Frank again carried the district, winning two-thirds of the votes.

In the immediately ensuing years, Frank was somewhat less in the public eye, but he reemerged when gays in the military became a significant issue. While Frank favored an end to the military's policy of exclusion, he saw little hope of the passage of such a measure. His suggestion of "a policy that says 'Don't ask, don't tell, and don't listen, and don't investigate'" drew criticism both from those who wanted to ban gays and lesbians from the armed services and from gay and lesbian groups who felt that his proposal did not go far enough. Of the controversy Frank said that he was "telling each side things that they don't want to hear."

The issue surfaced again in 2002, when the military discharged nine language specialists--six speakers of Arabic, two of Korean, and one of Mandarin Chinese. Frank called the army's policy--which he dubbed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Translate"--"preposterous," adding, "We are talking about prejudice being elevated over national security."

In addition to working to end discrimination by the military, Frank has been a vigorous proponent of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would make it illegal to use sexual orientation as a factor in employment decisions such as hiring, firing, and promotion.

Frank found himself at the center of a political maelstrom in 1995 when Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey referred to him as "Barney Fag," a gaffe that Armey tried to dismiss as a mere slip of the tongue. Few found that explanation convincing, especially in light of Armey's record. An editorial in The New Republic noted that "in the past three Congresses Armey [had] voted for every anti-homosexual law or amendment that [had] come up; and he [had] voted against every legislative initiative that could conceivably be said to further the dignity of gay Americans," concluding that "no one in the House has a more anti-gay record."

Frank's record on gay and lesbian concerns is second to none, but he is far from a one-issue legislator. He has supported civil rights, gun control, fair housing, reproductive rights, and the medical use of marijuana. He favors a balanced approach toward environmental issues, opposing oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but also arguing against restrictions on the fishing industry that "are too rigid and reflect inaccurate science."

In 2003 Frank became the Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, whose oversight includes issues of banking, insurance, real estate, consumer rights, and financial privacy laws. Daniel Forte, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, praised Frank as "really...a student of the committee, a real student of banking," and the American Bankers Association's head of governmental affairs, Edward Yingling, stated that Frank has "a very solid record...on structural banking issues."

From 2007 until 2011, Frank was Chairman of the Committee, which put him at the center of power during the financial meltdown in 2008.

During the subprime mortgage crisis, Frank was characterized as "a key deal-maker, an unlikely bridge between his party's left-wing base and . . . free market conservatives" in the Bush administration."

The New York Times noted that the Federal Housing Administration's crucial role in the nation's housing market, providing low-down-payment mortgages during the crisis of 2007--2010 when no mortgages would otherwise have been available, "helped avert full-scale disaster" by helping people purchase or refinance homes and thereby putting a floor under falling home prices.

Frank has raised the profile of gays in government by attending White House dinners and other official functions with a partner. Herbert Moses, Frank's companion from 1987 until 1998, was the first partner of a gay Representative to be granted spousal access privileges to the Capitol. Frank and Moses parted amicably in 1998. In recent years Frank has attended events at the White House with his partner James Ready.

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