Barney Frank (born March 31, 1940) is the U.S. House Representative for Massachusetts's 4th congressional district, serving since 1981. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He won his first full term in 1980 and has been re-elected ever since by wide margins. In 1987, he became the second openly gay member of the House of Representatives. Frank has been described as one of the most prominent LGBT politicians in the United States. From 2007 to 2011, Frank served as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
Frank was born Barnett Frank to a Jewish family in Bayonne, New Jersey, one of four children of Sam and Elsie. Frank's father ran a Jersey City truck stop — a place Frank describes as "totally corrupt" — and served a year in prison, when Frank was 6 or 7, for refusing to testify to a grand jury against Frank's uncle. Frank was educated at Harvard College, where he resided in Matthews Hall his first year and then in Kirkland House and Winthrop House, graduating in 1962. Frank's undergraduate studies were interrupted by the death of his father, and Frank took a year off to help resolve the family's affairs prior to his graduation. He taught undergraduates at Harvard while studying for a Ph.D., but left in 1968 before completing the degree, to become Boston mayor Kevin White's Chief Assistant, a position he held for three years. He then served for a year as Administrative Assistant to Congressman Michael J. Harrington. Frank later graduated from Harvard Law School, in 1977, while serving as Massachusetts State Representative.
In 1972 Frank was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives where he served for eight years. Frank made a name for himself in the mid-1970s as a political defender of the Combat Zone, Boston's notorious red light district. Neighborhoods in Frank's district bordered the Combat Zone. As a means of dealing with crime in the area (including violence, police corruption and the infiltration by organized crime), Frank introduced a bill into the Massachusetts General Court that would have legalized the sex-for-hire business but kept it quarantined in a red light district, which would have been moved to Boston's Financial District. The bill, which had the support of Boston's Police Commissioner, never came up for a vote. Later, when Frank was running for Congress, opponents erroneously portrayed him having attempted to permit red light districts in all Bay State communities.