By Community Affairs reporter Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s day three of the Equality Forum’s Global LGBT Summit and it’s a big one. Saturday night is the group’s International Equality Dinner, where several powerful figures in LGBT civil rights will be recognized.
When former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank was a kid the idea of gay couples living openly and getting married was but a dream.
“In 1953 and 54 when I was a young teenager, I realized that I was attracted to being in government, but I also realized that I was attracted to men,” says Frank. “I thought the two were at conflict and that as a gay man– although we didn’t use the term “gay” back then– that I would never be able to pursue my interest in government.”
Frank says the LGBT community suffered extreme prejudice during the 50s and 60s, so many stayed hidden.
“That was a time when the New York Times was referring to people like me as “pervert” in the headlines,” says Frank. “Fast forward 60 years and things have flipped. I think my marriage to my husband Jim polls better than my service in Congress.”
Now at age 73 Frank has been “out” for nearly 26 years. He’s stood on the front lines for equal rights for gays and has witnessed the sea change of public opinion. He attributes much of the change, to the bravery of the LGBT community in revealing their sexuality to the world.
“Prejudice exists when there is ignorance,” says Barney. “There was so much prejudice that we didn’t want to reveal who we were, but as long as we were hiding we could not defeat the prejudice. But as more and more of us have been open and honest about who we really were, the negative feelings based on misconceptions and ignorance went away.”
Listen to full interview:
These days, Frank is happily married to his husband, Jim, and is still hoping to make more change to open the door to equal rights for all.
“While things are getting better, we’re not totally there yet,” says Frank. “In most states it is still legal to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian. But we are working to change that on the federal level.”
In addition to Frank, Cuba’s Mariela Castro will receive the International Ally Award and Exelon will receive the International Business Leadership Award. Other events include Equality Forum’s International Law Panel and LGBT History Panel.
For a full list of events during the Global LGBT Summit, go to equalityforum.com.