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Barney Frank -- the Man, the Quips, the Impact

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Some of my favorites:

"Gay people have a different role than other minority groups... Very few black kids have ever had to worry about telling their parents that they were black"

"They're (congressional opponents) saying that my ability to marry another man somehow jeopardizes heterosexual marriage. Then they go out and cheat on their wives."

"The problem with the war in Iraq is not so much the intelligence as the stupidity."

"On what planet do you spend most of your time?" (in response to a critic at a healthcare town hall meeting)

I don't actually remember when I met Barney Frank. I just feel as though I have always known him. Always worked with him. As long as I have been trekking to Capitol Hill to seek fairness for the LGBT community, Barney's office was always my first, last and middle stop. We started working together during the AIDS crisis -- before he came out. Even then, he was aggressive, brave and strategic. Working with Ted Kennedy and Henry Waxman to get early money to fight the disease and protect the gay men who were being vilified on the floor of the House and Senate just for being sick.

For the next 25 years, Barney fought for us. When he burst out of the closet door in 1987, the splinters went flying. It was solely a testament to his intelligence, his passion, his commitment to a host of progressive causes and his loyalty to his colleagues and his constituents that he was so warmly embraced. It is hard to remember sometimes but that wasn't an incredibly safe and secure thing to do at the time. Public approval of gay people was pretty low, prejudice was still rampant and his career was on track to be Speaker, Senator, you name it. Nonetheless, he made the leap and he did it successfully.

It was because of Barney that the Americans with Disabilities Act protected people with HIV in the workplace. It is because of Barney that countless amendments taking away civil liberties for LGBT people did not pass the Congress and it is because of Barney, that the progress we have made as a community in the public is beginning to translate into good public policy. Sure there are others, both in and out of the Congress, but none with his intellectual heft, his raw political power and his unique ability to see the big picture.

Over the years, some in the LGBT community resented his all-powerful hold over our political agenda. They mistakenly thought that he was too unwilling to push his friends. I never felt that way. Just the opposite in fact. I felt more secure with him there. It is important to point this over the year's difference of opinion because now we will feel the true test of his absence. Has the groundwork been laid enough for him to leave? Is support for the LGBT community in good hands in Congress? We have a great Minority Leader Pelosi in the House, many friends and three smart and committed openly gay members of the House (one of whom, Tammy Baldwin we hope will be in the Senate next year). And in the Senate, Leader Reid has proven to be loyal and steadfast in his commitment. But Barney is in a class by himself. Time will tell of the impact of his leaving.

As for me, he will always be my dear friend. But I will miss his vote counting, his policy analysis, his creativity and his ability to cut the opposition in half without breaking an intellectual sweat. There won't be another like him.