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Barney Frank: Matt Foreman is 'protecting his ass'

by Michael Rogers and Nick Langewis

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) appeared on Sirius OutQ's Michelangelo Signorile Show, to respond to accusations made by outgoing National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Matt Foreman in the legislative struggle over inclusion of 'gender identity and expression' in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, passed last year by the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday's show, Foreman claimed that the openly-gay Frank was "squeamish" around transgender issues:

"I think what really happened," says Foreman of Congress' handling of employment discrimination protections for LGBT people, "is [Speaker Nancy Pelosi's] people said 'Look, Congress has a terrible reputation right now, they're not delivering for any progressive causes... What do we have to do to deliver to our progressive allies?' That means labor and health and environment and gays. And, so, I mean, I don't know this for a fact, but I would bet my life that this is what happened: They went to Barney Frank and said 'What do we need to pass ENDA?'"

"Representative Frank," continues Foreman, "who has always been pretty squeamish on the trans issue, and I guess I can say these things because I am leaving my job..."

"That's what we hoped you'd do," Signorile says to Foreman.

Foreman goes on: "...You know, said 'Look the best way to pass ENDA, and the easiest way is to -- let's take out gender identity,' and I don't think the Speaker's people thought this through--didn't think it through--and then they said 'OK, let's do it'."
Yesterday, Frank's office told PageOneQ that foreman's assertion that the Congressman was 'squeamish' was 'absurd."

On Thursday's show, Frank responded to Foreman's assertions by saying Foreman "made up that entire thing."

Frank insinuates that Foreman lost his job

"I know he said he didn't know that that happened," said Frank, "that he'd bet his life or that he would bet his life -- on it. Frankly, I think it's a good thing he didn't bet his life or he might have lost that in addition to his job. He just made that up. That is not remotely how it happened."

Frank had no discussions on ENDA with Foreman in '06

"He also has no basis for talking about my attitude on transgender people," Frank continues, "because I've had one set of conversations with Matt Foreman about transgender people. In 2002, when he was head of the Empire State Pride Agenda, he lobbied hard to get through the New York state legislature a bill that did exactly what our bill did last year. It covered discrimination based on sexual orientation but excluded people who are transgender."

Frank cited an example of Foreman's disagreements with New York state legislator Tom Duane over transgender inclusion, and the fact that the group endorsed GOP Governor George Pataki's reelection bid over an "outstanding African American, Democrat Carl McCall," in a compromise to get the bill passed. Rep. Frank claimed that Foreman excluded Duane, a state senator representing Manhattan's west side, from meetings relating to the state bill.

Later in the exchange Signorile explained Foreman's shift in position to Frank saying that Foreman acknowledged supporting a bill that did not include transgender protections. "I will speak to my own personal experience," Foreman is quoted as saying, "because I've moved very far on this issue and my past is not clean. People either get the issue of trans inclusion and its connection or they don't. But once you get it you feel it viscerally and it is not negotiable."

"I was once squeamish about it myself," the quote continues, "and I was quite a master about talking about the differences between sexual orientation and gender identity and that the remedies were different..."

"Well," responds Rep. Frank, "you like people to talk bluntly, let me talk bluntly: He's just trying to cover his ass." The Congressman continued by saying that Foreman "forgets to mention" that he helped push the New York bill through. Frank continued by reiterating his disappointment in Foreman's group and its endorsement of Pataki, saying "he endorsed the Republican over the African American Democrat, a very significant mistake in my judgment from the standpoint of in our coalition building."

"The notion that I was squeamish is based on the fact that he was squeamish," Frank continued. "I don't know what he went through and it's not of any great interest to me." Frank then explained how the bill moved through the House and cited examples of testimony he has offered in support of transgender inclusiveness in federal legislation.

In addition to the ENDA discussion, Signorile talked to Frank about the presidential election. Frank, a Hillary Clinton supporter, shared his thoughts briefly and was then called to the House floor for a vote.

The entire exchange Signorile and Frank may be heard here:


Originally published on Friday February 15, 2008.

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