Barney Frank (born March 31, 1940) is the U.S. Representative for Massachusetts's 4th congressional district (1981–present). A member of the Democratic Party, he is the former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (2007–2011) and is considered the most prominent gay politician in the United States.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Frank graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He worked as a political aide before winning election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1972. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980 with 52 percent of the vote. He has been re-elected ever since by wide margins. In 1987 he came out as gay, becoming the first member of Congress to do so voluntarily. From 2007 to 2011, Frank served as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, where he remains the ranking Democrat.
On November 28, 2011, Frank announced that he would retire from the Congress at the conclusion of his term in 2013.
In 2001 Frank authored of the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act (H.R. 2592), an attempt to stop federal government from preempting states' medical marijuana laws. He has consistently voted for the bipartisan Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, annually proposed by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), that would prohibit the United States Department of Justice from prosecuting medical marijuana patients. In March 2008, he proposed the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008 (HR 5843), which would have decriminalized small amounts of the drug but it died in committee during the 110th Congress. On June 18, 2009 he re-introduced the bill as the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009 (HR 2943).
Commenting on legislation to remove federal criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, Frank stated "In a free society a large degree of human activity is none of the government's business. We should make criminal what's going to hurt other people and other than that we should leave it to people to make their own choices."
In 2003 he was rated "A" by Vote Hemp, indicating a pro-hemp voting record.
In 2006 he was rated "+30" by NORML, indicating a pro-drug-reform stance.
In 2008 Frank sponsored "Removing Impediments to Students Education" (RISE) ((H.R.5157) 08-HR5157) to allow rehabilitated drug offenders to get student loans.
In 2009 Frank signed the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 (H.R.1866 2009-H1866) to "grant each state regulating authority for the growing and processing of industrial hemp."
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