I figured at that point this will be a good run, I'll be in the state house for a while.
Then in 1980, the Pope ordered Father Robert [Drinan] who was the congressman from the district that was next to mine, I lived in Tip O'Neill's district, not to run again.
And so I said, 'What the hell?' and I ran for that seat.
Did you think you would win?
I thought I had a good chance to win. At first I thought I was going to win — then I thought I wasn't — I was up and down. I always think I'm going to lose when I'm in a tough race — I'm very pessimistic.
Were you worried what would happen when you came out of the closet?
Yeah. Personally, I wondered what would happen if people outed me, and I didn't know what I would do. And I did worry about it.
I came out because I couldn't live closeted. It was a crazy way to live. I couldn't meet people, that's how I got in trouble with that hustler. There's a need for emotional and physical relationships — and it's just very hard.
I thought I would go to Washington and I would be publicly ambiguous, privately I could live as a gay man, but you can't do that, I was too much in the spotlight.
It just was impossible. So I decided that I would come out. And I was worried but I just couldn't live any other way.
I was talking with former Rep. Mike Oxley and he said, "Barney really believes in the institution of Congress." Is that right?
Yes. One of the things I'd like to do later on is I'd like to teach a course on Democracy.
Democracy has been the motivating factor in my life — Emmett Till, McCarthy — I just believe very strongly in democracy as a moral imperative. That people have a right to run their lives and that Democracy is very important.
And the embodiment of that Democracy is the Congress and the House of Representatives. So yes, I believe very much in the institution of Congress, not in itself, but as the institution of American democracy.
But people feel now like Congress doesn't work.
That's true, but that's only since the Tea Party came. Did you feel that way in 2009 and 2010?
In 2009 and 2010 — go back — read Hank Paulson's book — we worked very closely together. We did the Tarp with the administration. In the most political part of our history, we did the auto bailouts.
First of all, bipartisanship stopped when Obama came in.
Nancy Pelosi did a stimulus with George Bush in 2008 in January — people forget that — which we worked with him because the economy was turning down.
We didn't say go ahead and screw up and we'll beat you bigger in 2008.
In 2009 and 2010, we got health care, we got financial reform, we got Lily Ledbetter, we got the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell — it was very productive, including some foreign policy cooperation.
What then happened was that the Tea Party took over the Republican party. So that lack of functionality is very recent, it's a two-year period.
The other thing about it is, and people forget this, it's the American constitution.