Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank has criticized a group of gay activists for disrupting a House committee hearing demanding action on a federal gay protections bill.

The openly gay Frank called the action “a stupid thing to do” and “immature.”

Speaking with D.C. gay weekly Metro Weekly, Frank said he understood people's frustration in getting the bill out of committee, but added that he “genuinely” didn't understand the purpose of the protest.

“How does this help us get the bill passed?” he asked. “Who's mind are they going to change?”

Despite strong support in the House Education & Labor Committee, passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) – a bill which would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity (transgender protections) – has been elusive.

The bill was introduced by Frank in June of 2009 to much fanfare and received a warm welcome during a September hearing in the committee. At the time, Frank promised a vote before the end of the year.

But a November 18, 2009 final markup of the bill was postponed.

On Sunday, Frank predicted the bill would receive a final markup “this week or next week” and said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, had promised him the bill would get a quick vote in the House.

On Wednesday, seven activists from the nascent gay rights group GetEQUAL were escorted out of the committee and briefly detained after the group's leader, Robin McGehee, confronted committee Chairman George Miller as the panel was getting started. Holding a sign that read “GetEQUAL Pass ENDA,” she pleaded with the chairman to end the delays and offered him a marker to markup the legislation.

“Everything we do, we do respectfully,” McGehee told the paper. “We have to disrupt, because we don't have the access to power.”

McGehee also responded to Frank's comments on the group's action: “I would say, from his position of power, as an openly gay man, who is serving his community well … he may no longer be able to identify with those suffering with fear of job loss or other problems because of their identity.”

“We've waited too long already. … We have been promised since last year and, since the '90s, that we were going to have employment protection put in place. And yet, we still don't have it on the House floor.”

The bill enjoys the supports of all of the committee's Democratic members and even several Republicans, including Judy Biggert of Illinois, Todd Russell Platts of Pennsylvania and Mike Castle of Delaware, and has attracted 199 co-sponsors in the House.

GetEQUAL is also behind a Monday “don't ask” action that interrupted President Obama as he spoke at a fundraiser in California for fellow Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer and Tuesday's White House protest led by Lt. Dan Choi. In the second action, Choi and five activists were arrested after they chained themselves to the White House gate in protest of the military's gay ban.