Barney Frank: Marches Don’t Work
Barney Frank and I seldom see eye-to-eye but he’s echoing a longtime theme of mine in an interview with Kelly Ocamb for something called LGBT POV.
BF: The only thing people should do if they want to get this bill passed is call their representatives, call their senators and after they’ve called — get other people to call their representatives and their senators, not people from some other place.
KO: Are petitions effective?
BF: It has less effect. It’s better than nothing. Sending in your own individual letter is the best or your own email or go in to see them. Sending the same copy of a letter — it’s better than nothing. Signing a petition is least important because it doesn’t indicate that much activity.
KO: I asked because it seems that some people think that just by signing a petition, they’ve completed their duty as an activist.
BF: Or by marching on Washington. They tell me they were going to put pressure on Congress. All they put pressure on was the grass. Members of Congress didn’t know it [the National Equality March] happened because they didn’t call anybody. And I don’t understand why they think that works. By the way — you know who understands that? The National Rifle Association. They don’t have shoot-ins and rifle marches — they write and call. The NRA — person for person — they are extremely influential because they lobby that way.
Now, there are more gun owners in America than homosexuals, so I’m not sure LGBT groups can match the NRA as a pressure group. But Frank’s right: Representatives don’t much care about protest rallies, as people will show up to protest pretty much anything. They’re interested in the people with the power to vote them out of office.
And I suspect Pam Spaulding is right, too, that organized “visit your congressman days” by protest groups are less effective than individually organized visits or letters.
Amusingly, Frank is conservative (in the small-c sense) on transgender issues.
Look I’ve been telling people for years, we have a problem because still there’s some resistance on the transgender issue. People don’t want to hear that. I think maybe they’re afraid of having it tested.
Essentially, there are full protections for people who are transgender with a couple of provisos: One — the employer can ask for a gender consistent dress code. No mustaches and dresses. Two — people with one set of genitals do not have a legal right to get naked in front of the other set, is the basic way to put it. Some accommodation has to be made there. If you insist on the right for unrestricted access to bathrooms — we lose. And we’re making some accommodations here. And we worked it out with the transgender community. We had people very upset when we raised it — it because clear we couldn’t pass the bill without it.
While gays and lesbians have become sufficiently normalized in society that their issues are gaining widespread sympathy, the same isn’t true of transgenders. A go-slow approach is likelier to achieve progress, then, than a radical one.