PORTLAND, Maine — U.S. Rep. Barney Frank said Saturday night during a talk in Portland he hopes to marry fiance and Ogunquit resident Jim Ready in Maine, calling on those in attendance to vote to legalize gay marriage at the polls in November.

“We want marriage equality not just for all LGBT people, but for ourselves,” he said. “We want to get married in Massachusetts this year, but we want to get married next year in Maine.”

The acerbic and pull-no-punches approach Frank has become known for was on full display during his speech in Maine’s largest city as the Massachusetts Democrat called for cuts in defense spending and maintaining the current retirement age, and decried what he described as the disappearance from Congress of moderate Republicans.

“There are no moderate Republicans left, with the exception of a few who would vote with us when it doesn’t make any difference,” Frank said. “It’s the most rigid ideological party since before the Civil War. … The bumper sticker I’m going to have printed up for Democrats this year is, ‘We’re not perfect, but they’re nuts.’”

Frank was one of the honorees and the keynote speaker Saturday night at the Maine People’s Alliance 30th anniversary Rising Tide awards dinner, held at Woodford’s Congregational Church in Portland.

The organization also handed out awards to the Maine Education Association, the state teachers union, and state Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, for their efforts promoting progressive causes in recent years. Others given Rising Tide awards Saturday were exemplary Maine People’s Alliance volunteers from around the state: Jim Willis, Scott Murray, Heidi Brooks, Kevin Simpson, Tim Conmee, Dick Bissell, Wil Tippi and Democratic Maine House candidate Rachel Sukeforth of Litchfield.

Frank announced last fall his current term in the U.S. House of Representatives will be his last, ending a run in Congress that began with his election to the chamber in 1980. But he suggested the fact he doesn’t have to run for re-election won’t change his message much — he always has been outspoken, but now people won’t wonder if his bluntness is an effort to appeal to voters, he said.

“I want America to be the strongest country in the world,” he said of defense spending, “but we are now far stronger than we need to be.”

Frank said the United States still canfire thermonuclear warheads at the former Soviet Union three ways — by airplane, submarine and by land-based missile systems.

“It sounds like a joke, but I want to say to the Pentagon: ‘You know the three ways we have to destroy the Soviet Union? Pick two. I would feel very safe with just two ways to beat the Soviet Union.’ That’s billions of dollars [that could be saved],” said Frank, who was introduced Saturday by fellow Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.

The Harvard Law School graduate spoke strongly in favor of free speech — “You can call me a fag, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re in the banking industry,” said the former chairman and current ranking Democrat of the House Financial Services Committee — as well as the importance of “pragmatic” compromise in the Legislature and the need for members of the Occupy movement to be active at the polls.

“Taking facts into account is not a weakness,” Frank said.

Frank is the namesake, along with former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, often described as the most significant regulatory reform of the financial sector since the aftermath of the Great Depression.

Also Saturday night, an informal straw poll of Maine People’s Alliance members and supporters conducted by text message found that most who responded favored former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in the crowded race to replace retiring Republican Olympia Snowe in the U.S. Senate. While no numbers were announced, state Sen. Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth finished second, followed by independent former Gov. Angus King, state Rep. Jon Hinck of Portland and, in fifth, Republican Rick Bennett.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.