On Tuesday Barney Frank visited Seattle to help raise money for Congressmen Jim McDermott.
I had an opportunity to meet Barney Frank in a small group setting at Equal Rights Washington. He spoke to the group about the state of the movement. He went through a laundry list of goals achieved and still on the horizon.
He spoke about the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and briefly mentioned that right after the repeal passed, "someone from the White House asked me if there would be much political fallout if the President came out in support of same sex marriage." Barney Frank replied to the staff member, "there would be absolutely no fall out." Shortly after that conversation, the President announced he would no longer defend DOMA, according to Frank.
I pressed Frank further to see if he would tell us who the staffer was, but he would not.
"This is just my intuition, but I think the President will be supportive of marriage in the states that offer it before the 2012 election," Frank said.
Barney also talked about political strategy. Someone pondered the possibility of attaching pro gay legislation to a more popular bill. Frank said it would be impossible because the Republicans would never let it happen. "There just aren't the votes," he explained.
ENDA won't pass for several years, according to Frank. He talked about the need for more lobbying from the transgender community specifically, "People may not like to hear this, but there is still a lot of transphobia."
He told the small group that we need more public dialogue about transgender people. I asked him about the possibility of introducing a transgender only bill, specifically one that would require insurance companies to cover medical costs associated with transitions. "No." he flatly said, "It would be a waste of time. There simply aren't the votes."
"But it could inspire a national conversation," I said, "Isn't that important?"
"Things like that, just don't move votes. Lobbying does," Frank said.
He is right. Lobbying is extraordinarily important. Frank's primary goal is to win votes in Congress and lobbying is the best way to do that.
However, there are multiple campaigns continually in play. At the state level, transgender and transexual people are under attack in legislatures throughout this country. Simply leaving one's home can even be life threatening for some transgender people.
There are not enough public conversations about transgender people, so while Frank may be right that a trans specific bill would never go anywhere, it would inspire a desperately needed national conversation that would change hearts and minds at the grassroots level. Simply put, if we need more lobbying, we need to create more lobbyists.