For up-to-the-minute coverage, we now cross over to Rod McKillian, who is reporting from Capitol Hill.
Thanks, Karen. As you can see, the crowds here are extremely agitated. Today’s vote on the so-called gay marriage bill has polarized the nation. With the 2024 presidential race heating up, politicians of all persuasions are pushing their side as hard as they can. After the surprise passage of the bill by the House, all interested groups are aggressively lobbying those fence-sitting senators who are expected to determine the bill’s fate. Senators Young and Roilson are at the center of that activity, with their offices being constantly bombarded with emails, text messages and IMs from all sides. Last night, Senator Young took the unprecedented step of disconnecting from the web for several hours, saying that she hadn’t heard anything new for several days and wanted to concentrate on the issue without distraction.
The current polling is…
The Honorable Bailey Winston’s smile showed his amusement as he tuned out the news broadcast. As one of the old-guard conservative senators, his vote against the bill was a foregone conclusion among his fellow legislators. Apart from a courtesy call from the Save American Families organization, he had been left alone.
He straightened his tie and glanced at a mirror to check his appearance. As he prepared for his last voting session before he retired, he wanted to make sure he didn’t give anyone an excuse to denigrate him — at least because of how he looked or dressed.
His short gray hair gave him the dignified look appropriate to a United States senator. Only the diamond stud in his nose, a relic from a maverick youth, indicated there was more to him than met the eye. Many of his political opponents had failed to realize that — until it was too late.
Glancing at the plasma screen in the corner, he noticed that his old friend Trevor Scanlan from SAF was speaking, so he turned up the sound.
…and studies have shown that children brought up by homosexual couples are far more likely to be molested than those in normal families. How can we even contemplate exposing the future of this nation to that sort of abuse, all for some misguided sense of a right that doesn’t really exist?
Bailey frowned. He reached up and hit a button on the miniphone attached to his right ear.
“Bradley Charleston,” he stated.
“Dialing Bradley Charleston,” a mechanical voice replied.
After only a couple of rings, a young voice answered.
“Bradley, will you please come in here?”
Senator Winston was gazing thoughtfully out the window when the door behind him slid open and a young man walked in.
“You wanted to see me, sir?”
Bailey turned around. He contemplated his technical assistant for a few seconds before speaking.
“Trevor Scanlan was on the news a minute ago. He quoted a study that indicated children are more likely to be molested when raised by homosexual couples. Can you please track down the details? That’s the sort of information I may need in today’s session.”
“Do you need to access anything for the next few minutes, sir?”
Bailey waved a hand dismissively. “No, go ahead.”
He watched, still amazed at the power of modern communications systems, as Bradley replayed the newscast to isolate the section in question. The screen image then split into two, with the original news broadcast on the left and a graphical search screen on the right. After only a few minutes’ work, his assistant turned around.
“I’ve found the details. The report in question has been discredited by all applicable major research bodies as being an unscientific misrepresentation of the raw data,” Bradley stated. “I’ll leave it up for you to view, if you wish, sir.”
The senator sighed. “Thanks, Bradley. It’s important to know the facts, just in case I need them.”
Bradley had turned to go when, on impulse, Bailey spoke again. “Wait a moment, would you please, Bradley?”
The young man stood by the door, his quizzical expression reflecting the unusual nature of the request.
“What is it, sir?”
“Have a seat. I want to ask you something as your grandfather, not as your boss.”
Bradley dropped into a chair. He was even more nervous than before.
The senator turned and again looked out the window. With his back to his grandson, he started speaking.
“You know that I have an important vote today. The Equal and Non-Discriminatory Relationships Bill is going to go down to the wall,” he said. “Yet, despite it being very important to you, you’ve never said anything to me about it, or how you’d like me to vote. Why not?”
During a lengthy pause, Bailey kept his back to his grandson. He didn’t want to pressure Bradley as he responded.
“There are a few reasons,” Bradley started slowly. “The main one is that it would be impossible for me to change your opinion. You made up your mind a long time ago on how you’ll vote, and nothing I can say will change that.”
Bailey chuckled. “You’re one hundred percent correct on that. My mind has been made up for several weeks.”
He turned and frowned at the younger man sitting in the swivel chair.
“Since that’s the case, why are you still here? Don’t your boyfriend and your other gay friends see you as working for the enemy?”
“Because, despite the fact that you’re going to push off for another few years, at least, our right to get married, you stand up for what you believe. Most of the time they’re things that I also believe in. Anyway, Sean and I are still getting married. We’re just going to Canada to get it done. You’re well aware that gay marriage has been legal in Canada for almost twenty years. None of the disasters you and your conservative friends predict have happened there,” he finished bitterly.
“I don’t recall I’ve ever predicted a disaster,” Bailey responded mildly. “Some of my colleagues have, I’ll concede, but not I.”
“No, all you do is to go on about the preservation of family values!”
The senator sighed and turned away. “Thank you for being honest, Bradley. That’s one of the things I’ve always admired in you. Thank you, again, for your wedding invitation, too. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Now, I need some time to prepare. I’ll call you if I need anything else.”
With that clear dismissal, Bradley stood up and walked to the door. As it silently slid open, he stared in frustration at the back of his illustrious grandfather. Senator Bailey Winston was a stubborn old man, but he was also a loving family man. Bradley just couldn’t understand how his grandfather could deny him the chance to marry his boyfriend at home.
* * *
“Bailey! Are you ready for the big celebrations later today?”
Senator Winston looked over his shoulder and paused when he recognized the majority whip, Jack Islingham.
“Hello, Jack. What celebrations are you talking about?”
“What celebrations?” Senator Islingham echoed in disbelief. “Why, the double celebration of defeating those liberals with the vote today, and also your retirement, of course. Surely you didn’t expect to get away without us all passing on our thanks for all your years of service to the party, did you?”
“And to the country,” Bailey whispered under his breath as he resumed his walk down the hall to the waiting media circus, Jack at his side.
“Aren’t you being a bit optimistic about the vote?” Bailey asked. “From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be decided by Young and Roilson.”
Jack laughed cruelly. “That’s what everyone thinks, but the liberals don’t know how to count properly. They’ve counted two votes that are really on our side. Mary Round and the esteemed Wallace Kennedy-Fairchild…”
“…the third,” Bailey joined in the refrain, echoing the mild amusement that many felt about the young senator’s insistence on the use of his full name.
“They’ve indicated they’ll support the bill, but in fact they’ll vote against it. I organized it with them almost two weeks ago. The poor liberals will be completely blindsided. No matter how much they court Young and Roilson, the bill isn’t going to pass.”
Jack’s pleasure at his subterfuge was plain, but Bailey frowned.
“Do Mary and Wallace really understand what they’re doing?”
“What do you mean? Of course they do,” Jack scoffed. “They understand party loyalty, and they’ll be well rewarded for their role in today’s drama.”
Bailey maintained his frown, but kept his mouth shut. He recalled a saying from back in his youth: an honest politician is one who stays bought. While cruel, there was a large degree of truth in it. Those senators would be destroying their reputations with that one act. No one would ever again be able to trust their word.
As they stepped out of the office building, the two men were immediately assailed by the flash of cameras and floating camcorders maneuvering for the best shots for the news broadcasts.
“Senators, do you wish to make any comments about today’s bills?”
“Senator Winston, how do you feel on your last day in the Senate?”
“Senator Islingham, does your presence here with Senator Winston mean you’re unsure of his vote?”
“Senators, how can you justify denying Americans basic rights?”
“Senator Winston, …”
Jack Islingham held up both hands, quickly stopping the cries of the waiting media representatives.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to accompany my good friend Bailey Winston on his last day as a United States senator. Because of his record of years of faithful service to our country, I join many of our colleagues in wishing him all the best for the future. All we have to do is make it through one more session together, and then he can enjoy a well deserved retirement.”
Bailey used his media smile to accept Jack’s praise. He would’ve been happier if Jack had actually looked at him at some stage during his brief speech, but he hadn’t expected it. Years of practice made the habit of looking out at the cameras hard to break. A politician must always play the game, or else the journalists might rip him to shreds.
“What about gay Americans? What’s been his service to them?”
Only the crinkling around his eyes revealed Jack’s displeasure at the impudent reporter who had yelled out that question from the back of the mob. He started to respond, but stopped when Bailey touched him gently on the arm.
“I’ll take this one, Jack.”
He turned to face the cameras and glanced across them for a long moment before speaking.
“The phrase ‘fellow Americans’ is one that has been widely used over the years. People of all political persuasions have used it for so many purposes that it has become almost meaningless. I’ve always taken a simpler view of things, which is one reason I never felt called to run for president,” he said, self-disparagingly.
The reporters politely chuckled. Bailey smiled broadly back at them.
“For me, it’s all about family. Every American came into this world as part of a family, and the family is the cornerstone of the American way. Whenever I’ve wondered about what’s the correct way to vote, I’ve looked back at the family and cast my vote based on what I’ve felt is the best outcome for them. When something threatens the family, I have, and I will, vote against it. Even my retirement has been decided for family reasons.”
He paused. He was confident that if anything he said would be widely heard, it would be his concluding statement.
“I have always stood for family values. I have always supported family values. My last vote as a U.S. senator will be on the basis of what’s best for American families.”
Not waiting for any more questions, he strode purposefully down the path toward the Senate chambers, for the last time. He kept his amusement from his face as Jack scrambled to catch up.
Aware of the hovering swarm of microphones and cameras, Jack and Bailey maintained a discreet silence until they entered the building. After passing quickly through the security station, they entered the chamber.
“Nice little speech, Bailey,” Jack said admiringly as they sat down. “You certainly put that upstart in her place.”
“Thanks, Jack. Putting her in her place was just a bonus. That was probably my last speech to the media, and I wanted to say what I stand for, one more time.”
“How does it feel to be sitting here for the last time?”
Bailey pursed his lips. “It feels strange, but also relieving. I’m moving on to other things, and I think I’ve spent enough time in this chamber.”
They were interrupted by the start of a steady stream of well-wishers, come to say farewell to Senator Bailey Winston. A small swarm of cameras hovered at a polite distance, providing an illusion of privacy, though all present knew that if something inappropriate or juicy was stated, a computer-enhanced voiceprint would be online in the blogosphere within minutes.
Finally, the Senate was called to order and the business of the day commenced.
“I’ve done this so many times, I could do it with my eyes closed,” Bailey said to Jack as they voted on the first bill of the day.
“The way some people vote, I’m sure they’re doing it in their sleep,” Jack quipped back.
Placing his left hand on the sensor pad to verify his identify, Bailey tapped the “Against” pad with his right. As the results flashed up on the screen next to him he wasn’t surprised at the result. Senator Coolum was an idealist who just didn’t yet understand the realities of the Senate. He’d have to do a lot more negotiating if he expected his pet projects to get that amount of funding.
The session moved along quickly. The atmosphere was one of everyone just wanting to get to the showdown last bill of the day. There was little debate, and all the voting went as expected.
Finally, it was time.
“Senators, the final order of business is the Equal and Non-Discriminatory Relationships Bill.”
A murmur filtered down from the watching gallery. Most of the swarm of media cameras floated over toward the two swinging senators.
Bailey was too experienced to expect the vote to come quickly. He wasn’t surprised when senator after senator stood up to express their opinions — opinions that they’d repeated ad nauseam in prior sessions.
“If they keep this up much longer, I think I’ll fall asleep,” he said to Jack in a sotto voice.
“Don’t do that!” Jack whispered back. “Your vote is needed, just in case Young and Roilson both vote in favor.”
Bailey chuckled. “Don’t worry. This is one vote that I have no intention of missing.”
Eventually, the polling began.
“Here’s to the end of this idiocy,” Jack stated venomously, as he voted.
“Yes,” Bailey agreed quietly. “To the end of the idiocy.”
He closed his eyes. He didn’t need to see as he put his left hand down to identify himself, and then voted with his right.
His eyes were still closed when the result was called.
“By forty-nine votes to forty-eight, the Equal and Non-Discriminatory Relationships Bill has been passed.”
There was an uproar.
“What happened?” Jack asked angrily, as he scanned the voting results. “Mary and Wallace voted as they were told. Young and Roilson both voted for it, but that shouldn’t have been enough! Who…”
His voice trailed off as the floating camcorders raced in their direction. Jack turned to look at Bailey in disbelief.
Senator Bailey Winston opened his eyes and slowly rose to his feet.
“Thank you, Jack. It’s time for me to go. I have a family to return to.”
“You voted for it! How could you? What did they pay you to betray everything you’ve ever stood for?”
Jack’s voice went from confusion to anger as its volume increased. He rose to his feet to confront his old friend.
Bailey was very much aware of the media scrutiny, even if Jack had momentarily forgotten it. However, he kept his attention on Jack. He no longer needed to play games.
“You didn’t listen to me outside, did you, Jack? All Americans come into this world as part of families, even gay Americans. There is no better place to grow up than as part of a loving family. There are children out there who need that love, and I will not deny them that chance simply because the ones who love them are of the same sex.
“I’m not betraying what I’ve always stood for — I affirmed it with my last vote in this place. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a family I want to celebrate with.”
Bailey Winston, former U.S. senator, strode out of the chamber, ignoring everyone around him, his smile showing pride in what he had done.
Copyright Notice — Copyright © December 2005 by Graeme.
The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form — physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise — without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.
Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.
I would like to express a special thank you to Rain and Aaron of The Mail Crew for their editing. I can thoroughly recommend their website to all teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bi or not sure.