Former Congressman Barney Frank poses after delivering his remarks with Rudy Serra, who is running for state rep, and U.S. Rep Gary Peters. BTL photo: Jason A. Michael

Former Congressman Barney Frank Speaks At Holocaust Exhibit Finale

By Jason A. Michael

FARMINGTON HILLS - Former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D - Mass.) spoke Sunday at the exhibit finale for "Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945" at the Holocaust Memorial Center. Frank was originally slated to speak at the exhibit's opening in January, but an injury left him unable to travel.

Frank credited U. S Rep. Gary Peters (D - Mich.) for convincing him to come speak and it was Peters, who once served on the House Financial Services Committee Frank chaired, that introduced Frank to the crowd.

"Barney Frank has always spoken up for those who are voiceless," Peters said. "With Barney's retirement, the House lost one of its most brilliant and certainly one of it wittiest members."

Frank started his speech by thanking both the Jewish and LGBT communities who were major supporters of his while he served in Congress.

"I'm very pleased to say that it's absolutely the case that both communities understand that hatred spreads," he said. "People who hate one group who is different from them are likely to hate another."

Regaling the crowd with stories from his early days, Frank said he once believed being gay and Jewish would hinder his chances for a career in public office. Yet Frank overcame both obstacles and spent an incredible 16 terms as a U.S. Congressman. He was a member of the House from 1981-2012, where he became known for his sharp intellect, sense of humor and his willingness to tackle tough issues. He has been a leader in the fight against discrimination and championed civil rights and financial reform.

In 1987, Frank became the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out as openly gay. Then in 2012, he married his longtime partner, Jim Ready, and became the nation's first Congressman in a same-sex marriage while in office.

"I'm very proud that the Jewish community has been at the forefront of the fight against anti-LGBT prejudice," Frank told the crowd, before speaking about how moved he was by the exhibit.

"It's very relevant to remind people that the most vicious gang in the history of the world was the Nazis," he said. "No one came close. And they did not point only at the Jews. The Nazis put most of their effort into trying to wipe out the Jews. But they went after gay men, they went after gypsies and they went after people with disabilities.

"It's important to show the breadth of the hatred," Frank continued. "The Holocaust held up a mirror to people to show what their hatred had caused."

Frank said that the success of other rights movements was spurred by the revelation of the horrors of the Holocaust.

"Every rights movement in America really dates to post-World War II in terms of its effectiveness," he said.

Frank closed by expressing his gratitude to the Holocaust Memorial Center for bringing in the exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

"I am particularly grateful to the Museum for this exhibit that shows the persecution of homosexuals," he said. "What turned the tide against prejudice, the bedrock of it, was the ability of people to demonstrate what the logical end of prejudice was. This museum, this particular exhibit ... this is an important ongoing part of this. People who want to perpetuate this type of prejudice don't have a stopping point."

Howard Israel, and his partner Henry Grix, were among the co-sponsors of the exhibit. Israel noted that Frank's remarks were right on point.

"The message about hate spreading is really quite timely," Israel said. "If you went through the exhibition about persecution of homosexuals by the Nazi regime and you read what the Nazis had to say, about gay men in particular, it's striking that anti-gay politicians are using the same exact venom and lies against gay people now that that Nazis did in the 1930s and 40s. So his words were very timely and pertinent to the hate that's going on in today's world."

Israel said the decision to become a co-sponsor of the exhibit was an easy one.

"We thought it was courageous and really significant that the Holocaust Museum chose to run this particular exhibit," he said. "We thought it was a very timely gesture to the general community that anti-gay rhetoric and anti-gay violence are not new. It keeps recurring because hatred and ignorance keep returning."


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