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.

Barney-Frank-LGBTPOVBF: 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.

via Memeorandum

FILED UNDER: Congress, Gender Issues, LGBTQ Issues, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JKB says:

    Well, we all know the way to influence a congressman or senator is with cash. The kind they put in their freezer is best since not only have out bought them but you can always threaten to tell as well.

    They’re interested in the people with the power to vote them out of office.

    Which is, I think, why the Tea Party worries them. Not due to the protests but rather that they are middle class and elderly who vote. More worrisome, they are people who normally don’t pay much attention to the chatter from DC, so when they start paying attention, the policals start squirming. That and you know they cringe at the fear one of their union thugs will start some violence and pictures of toddlers and the elderly being gassed or bloodied by riot police hit the internet.

    The transgender problems is why I believe DADT will backfire. Once you have openly serving gays in the military, you can’t really justify the expense disparate treatment of separate berthing for males and females. But as your post indicates, the country is ready to ignore private part differences.

  2. floyd says:

    Frank is right,Politicians do not care what you think. The only thing that has even a tiny effect is to make them see a valid threat to their power!
    They will continue pressing for “progress” in their agenda as soon as you leave the room, and the will of the people be damned.
    So if you want to have an effect, you must find the politician’s agenda and pay NO attention to his speeches, then keep the pressure ON until he quits or complies.
    Since this is hard work and the people are lazy, the “progress” will continue until the nation is destroyed by it…
    325,000,000 divided by 537 equals 600,000 which equals an index finger in the wind for the speech writers and a middle finger in your face from the politicians.

  3. Highlander says:

    August 9, 378 AD draws near once again.

  4. sam says:


    Politicians do not care what you think.

    So if you want to have an effect …keep the pressure ON until he quits or complies.

    Well, floyd, if the first is true, why should he or she give a shit about the second?

  5. Triumph says:

    While gays and lesbians have become sufficiently normalized in society that their issues are gaining widespread sympathy, the same isn’t true of transgenders.

    I’m cool with RNC-style lesbian bondage, but anything more than that is perverted.

    Two dudes getting it on is disgusting, and the whole “transgendered” thing is simply insane. It is nothing more than grown adults dressing up strangely in costumes and having a perennial Halloween.

  6. floyd says:

    Power responds to power. It’s the pressure he responds to, the agenda remains unaffected and will continue the second the pressure is released.
    So, it’s what you do, not what you think that he cares about.
    It’s the speech writer who cares what you think, and hopes to spin it with a little “english”.[or perhaps a little Spanish… which sorta negates the metaphor, doesn’t it?]lol

  7. An Interested Party says:

    August 9, 378 AD draws near once again.

    Who knew that Teh Gays!1! are as powerful as the Visigoths were…

  8. Highlander says:

    Who knew that Teh Gays!1! are as powerful as the Visigoths were…

    Interested Party,

    That is the problem. The Romans like us,by that time had all the corrupt perfumed gay Emperors and Senators. The Barbarians had the aggressive leadership and blood thirsty swords.

    The Barbarians won, 14 Roman Legions and an Emperor wiped out in 2 hours. For us it will probably be,Aircraft Carriers or an EMP attack on the national power grid.

    Not to worry though,fearsome perfumed bulls like Barney and Barry will keep you and your family safe.

    They will probably deploy the warlike “Trans Gendered Pink Berets” to meet our barbarian enemies.That will send them running for sure.