WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The highest-profile openly gay lawmaker predicted on Wednesday that the United States could soon see an end to legalized discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.
"We are on the verge of major breakthroughs," Representative Barney Frank told the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit.
He pointed to President Barack Obama's decision last month to stop defending a law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, and a vote by Congress that will lead to an end of the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
"I can foresee now an end to legal inequality based on sexual orientation and gender equality some time in my lifetime," said Frank, who turned 70 three days ago.
The Massachusetts lawmaker, who plans to seek a 17th term in the House of Representatives in elections next year, said that once he retires, he would like to write a history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, in part because his career has paralleled that movement.
Frank was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature three years after riots following a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan set off the modern gay rights movement.
He publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in 1987, and his career survived a scandal involving a male prostitute that led to a reprimand by his fellow lawmakers.
Massachusetts is the first of only five states to have legalized same-sex marriage, a hot-button issue that has been the focus of judicial and political battles across the country. Opponents often say that legalizing gay unions could imperil the institution of marriage.
The issue is clearly a touchstone for Frank, who is perhaps best known as a co-author of sweeping Wall Street reform.
Defending the Federal Reserve Bank's most recent round of bond-buying and other moves to shore up the financial system after the 2007-2009 crisis, Frank said: "I wish you would go back and look at all the predictions about disaster, kind of like same sex-marriage.
"What harm has it done? The answer is none."