Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rep. Frank asks to bring beau on House floor
By Betsy Rothstein of The Hill

Even if House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had access to spousal privileges, he would not be allowed to bring the man known as his boyfriend, Jim Ready, 39, a surfing enthusiast, to the House floor. Last week Frank approached the Speaker’s Lobby with Ready, who was spotted wearing a green blazer and the traditional congressional spouse pin, and asked to bring him into the Chamber. He was told no.

The rules are that no spouse or life partner — gay, straight, male, female — is allowed on the floor. Only a lawmaker’s children are allowed to accompany a parent into the chamber. Frank took the news in stride and didn’t make any trouble. After being told why he could not bring Ready onto the floor, he reacted amiably, saying he understood the reasoning. Why such stringent rules? Envisioning the sheer number of spouses who would convene on the floor makes many Capitol employees roll their eyes. “Spouses aren’t allowed in here,” remarked a Capitol employee, explaining, “Kids aren’t a pain in the a-- on the floor.”

Frank has given the spouse pin to his partners before. He said in the mid-’90s he gave it to his then-partner Herb Moses. He said other gay lawmakers also have given pins to significant others such as Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)’s domestic partner, Lauren Azar. It’s “up to you,” Frank said, explaining that he gets to decide to whom to give his spouse pin. “In much of the country there is no way for a same sex couple to do anything officially,” he said. He added, it “isn’t any of your business” if he and Ready will have a commitment ceremony.

While House rules have extended the spouse pin to domestic partners, House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood stresses to new members at the beginning of each Congress that the pin be given out with great care for security precautions. He also asks that spouses request the spouse ID card for secondary security. “It’s got to be a serious relationship,” said a spokeswoman for the House Sgt. at Arms office. “If something goes bad then we lost a pin. We’re not in a process of supplying pins for every girlfriend or boyfriend a member has. He wants to make sure it’s a serious, committed relationship.”

After this item was published, Frank's office released this statement to ITK: "Rep. Frank strongly disagrees with The Hill's 'sources' that he was trying to bring his partner onto the House floor, which Rep. Frank knows is not allowed. The unnamed source that incorrectly reported the interaction between Rep. Frank and the Sergeant of Arms personnel -- who was not a party in the conversation -- was wrong. The truth is that Rep. Frank was asking for clarification from the staff of the rules for access to the Speaker's Lobby, which is located behind the chamber."

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