could face an "angry, divisive" fight if a proposed
constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage reaches
the 2008 state ballot, Rep. Barney Frank says.
The congressman blamed backers of the initiative
petition for trying to provoke a new fight despite a
lack of controversy over same-sex marriage.
"Basically, they're the disturbers of the civic peace," the
Democrat said in a wide-ranging Associated Press interview
Thursday. "We now have social peace in Massachusetts.
They're the ones who want to stir it up.... This is a
nonissue in Massachusetts."
The Massachusetts Family Institute said the
124,000 certified signatures it gathered for the
petition, nearly double the number required, was a
sign of strong public support for outlawing same-sex
marriage. "All they want is an opportunity to vote on
the definition of marriage," said the group's
president, Kris Mineau. "Now that the people have
spoken, the good congressman has decided this is a divisive issue."
Before the amendment can be placed on the state
ballot, it must be approved by at least 50 lawmakers
during two separate sessions of the state legislature.
"I think by 2008, people will say, 'Do we really need
to have an angry, divisive debate over a nonissue?'" Frank
said. "The question for the 50 legislators is, Do they
want to make this a front-page issue again, leading
the TV news?"
Amendment supporters want to overturn a 2003
supreme judicial court ruling that said denying
marriage licenses to same-sex couples was
unconstitutional. State-approved same-sex marriages began
May 17, 2004.
Relaxing in his Capitol Hill office and wearing
a dark blue polo shirt during the congressional
holiday break, Frank, 65, also spoke about his
personal and political future.
He said he plans to retire from Congress before
his health starts to fail him. He wants to avoid
becoming a public spectacle. "I'm not going to get old
in public," he said. "I've seen some great men, literally
great men, deteriorate in public view.... I don't think you
should do that."
Once he leaves politics, Frank wants to write
books about issues such as capitalism, the legislative
process, and democracy. "One goal is to retire early
enough to write some books," he said. "I wish I could
write more fluidly than I do. I can still talk a lot more
easily than I write."
The congressman, however, does not lack
political ambition. If Democrats recapture the House,
he hopes to become chairman of either the Financial
Services Committee or Judiciary Committee, two highly
coveted posts. "That's a dream come true," Frank said.
He would run for the Senate if Sen. John Kerry
campaigns for president again in 2008 and his seat is
open. But there's a caveat: Frank would not run if
Democrats win the House in 2006. "Yes, I would run for the
Senate," said Frank, who chided others for masking their own
political ambitions. "I have a new rule for politicians: Try
to avoid saying something that no one will believe."
Frank and other members of the Massachusetts
congressional delegation jockeyed for Kerry's seat
during the 2004 presidential contest briefly when it
appeared Kerry might win. Kerry's 2008 White House prospects
will depend on President Bush's popularity, he said.
"For John to win, people have to say, 'I was wrong to
vote for Bush over him,'" Frank said. "That's a hard
thing to do.... So by the middle of 2007, John's
chances depend to a great extent on how Bush is perceived."
Frank mocked Massachusetts governor Mitt
Romney, a prospective 2008 Republican presidential
candidate, for shifting positions on issues like
abortion. "He's stopped saying 'evolved' because the people
he's courting don't like evolution," Frank said. "His
position on abortion has been intelligently redesigned."
Frank said Romney is targeting conservatives who
dominate the Republican presidential primary process,
trying to become the right-wing alternative to U.S.
senator John McCain of Arizona. "Romney sees himself as
having the best chance to be an alternative to McCain,"
Frank said. "He's moved way conservative. That's his
strategy." Frank said he was not bothered by Romney's
frequent out-of-state trips to test the presidential
primary waters. "What hurts the state is his belittling
of the state—his caricaturing and stereotyping of the
state," he said. "That's damaging." (AP)