Barney Frank drums up LGBT support for Hillary Clinton in Atlanta

As the first day of the GOP convention got underway in Cleveland last Monday, openly gay former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was in Atlanta to mobilize the city’s LGBT community to support former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. The July 18 visit came as some polls begin to show Georgia and its 16 electoral votes could go blue in a presidential election for the first time in nearly a quarter-century.

Frank met with young activists and Atlanta LGBT leaders, including openly queer state Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) and lesbian House District 62 candidate Valerie Vie, earlier that afternoon at Ponce City Market to encourage them to increase their engagement with the campaign. Then he moved on to a phone bank at Georgia Democratic Party headquarters downtown that evening, where he was joined by Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson, Vie and several volunteers.

“I think there’s a real chance for gay and lesbian people to make an impact because obviously she does well with African-Americans,” Frank told Georgia Voice outside the phone bank. “If the LGBT community mobilizes and helps her carry Georgia, I guarantee you that will have major national implications. That will be very good for us. That will be a demonstration of the kind of clout that would be helpful for us.”

Barney Frank addressing the crowd at a phone bank that included lesbian House District 62 candidate Valerie Vie (back) and Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson (in front of Vie). (Photo courtesy Colton Griffin)
Barney Frank addressing the crowd at a phone bank that included lesbian House District 62 candidate Valerie Vie (back) and Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson (in front of Vie). (Photo courtesy Colton Griffin)

Gay Atlanta man Colton Griffin, First Vice Chair of the LGBT Caucus of the Georgia Democrats and Stonewall Caucus Chair of the Young Democrats of Georgia, was at both events and described Frank’s message about Clinton to the gathering.

“A lot of younger voters might not necessarily know the whole history and you see something pop up on Facebook saying ‘Oh, so-and-so didn’t support gay marriage,’ so some of the stuff that Barney Frank talked about was how to react to that, and the reaction to that is, honestly, she’s a very, very big ally and there’s no excuse not to support her,” he told Georgia Voice. “And in fact, he actually made the point that if there’s people that are undecided or there are people that are Bernie supporters and they’re thinking about not voting for Hillary, just ask them, ‘Do our rights matter to you?’ And if they do, you’ll come out and vote for Hillary Clinton—otherwise it’s basically saying that you don’t care about all the progress that President Obama’s made and all of the progress we’ve made over the last seven years.”

Frank’s visit came as RealClearPolitics moved Georgia from “Leans Republican” to “Toss Up” for the Clinton-Trump showdown. And the state has the attention of GOP leaders, with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus telling Bloomberg Politics last Tuesday, “I always worry a little bit about Arizona and Georgia. I worry about growth and that’s what why I’m just so focused on Hispanics and Asians.”

And as the Democratic National Convention got underway Monday in Philadelphia, Georgia Democrats touted new internal polling that shows the race to be a dead heat, with 41 percent of general election voters supporting Clinton, 40 percent for Trump and 16 percent undecided. Georgia hasn’t gone blue in a presidential election since 1992 with Bill Clinton. We’ll find out on November 8 if Secretary Clinton can repeat that success.

Sidenote: we also asked Frank, who testified in opposition to the anti-LGBT First Amendment Defense Act on Capitol Hill earlier this month, what he thought of the testimony of Kelvin Cochran, the former Atlanta fire chief who lost his job last year after writing an anti-gay book.

“It was unanimously agreed, including by the Republicans, that the bill was irrelevant to him. It had nothing to do with his situation. Which is indicative of the fact they couldn’t find any issues that the bill could have addressed, so they had to go down to this one,” said Frank, referring to Cochran.

Of Cochran’s termination, Frank said, “I do think you should have a right to say what you want as long as it’s not job related. Now whether or not that was job related is the specific issue. But once again, the bill had nothing to do with it because the bill didn’t apply to state and local government.”