I'm grateful Tim Cook said he's gay: Barney Frank

Apple CEO Tim Cook's announcement that he's gay is "extraordinarily important" in the effort to break down prejudices and stereotypes, said former Rep. Barney Frank, who served decades in Congress as one of the most prominently openly gay politicians.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people just want to be treated the same under the law, Frank told CNBC on Thursday, shortly after Cook's revelation in a BloombergBusinessweek op-ed. The Massachusetts Democrat said Cook's courage will help others who may be reticent or struggling whether to publicly discuss their sexual orientation.

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"When the man who has been the leader for several years with great success of one of the most important ... businesses in America, says, 'Oh by the way, you know those people about whom you have these negative feelings, well I'm one of them.' That does such an enormous amount to diminish the negative feelings," Frank said. "I am very grateful for him doing it."

The retired congressman, who took office in Congress in 1981 and came out as gay six years later, said Cook was "wise" for not coming out when he first took the helm at Apple. He said Cook's track record of success will render moot any concerns about whether an openly gay CEO would hurt the company's finances. "Now, it's just indisputable that his sexual-orientation is important to him personally ... but that's it's a wholly irrelevant factor economically."

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"The progress we've made in 50 years is enormous," Frank said. "It's been the process of millions of Americans telling their friends, their relatives, their customers, their patients, etc., who we are. That we're gay."

Frank said he does not own an iPhone because he's Luddite. "[But] I did just get an iPad, so I can read emails."

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