After having lunch with Tommy, Jeff returned to his office at the end of last week’s chapter and found a message waiting for him from Tim. He and Susan met with Tim later that afternoon and learned that Tim’s boss, Congressman Henry Wellman, had talked to Congressman Bresnahan earlier in the day and agreed to introduce a bill authorizing $15 million in new funding for AIDS.
As the word implies, an authorization bill provides the legal authority for programs and activities to take place and recommends the funding level for them. However, the money itself must be provided in a separate appropriations bill in the United States.
Of the two, the appropriations bill is the more important. But typically you cannot appropriate money without an authorization being in place first. There are ways around that, however.
In any event, after meeting with Tim, Jeff returned a call from Tommy. Tommy had talked with his boss in the interim and learned he could write the story in spite of knowing Jimmy. Jeff invited Tommy to dinner the following evening so the three of them could discuss the matter further.
Later that evening Jeff told other members of the counseling group at the Whitman Walker Clinic that he and Jimmy were planning to give an interview to a reporter for the Washington Post. Some of the others in the group were skeptical any good would come from doing that. They argued the press was hostile to gay people.
The point is there was a lot of confusion and disagreement in the gay community about how best to proceed in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Not everyone was anxious for press coverage of the crisis or would have agreed with what Jimmy and Jeff were planning to do.
The follo0wing evening Tommy joined Jimmy and Jeff for dinner at their place on Capitol Hill. Mark and Leo were there as well. Concerned Tommy might be afraid of contracting AIDS, Jimmy was reluctant to shake Tommy’s hand. That didn’t prove to be the case, however, as Tommy stepped forward and hugged his boyhood best friend.
It took courage to do something like that back then given how little was known about the disease.
Later, after Mark and Leo had left, Jeff explained to Tommy how the counseling group had reacted when he told them about giving the interview. Tommy agreed reporters often handled the subject badly when they covered it all.
He also asked Jimmy whether he was out to his parents and explained how he had learned that sometimes parents behaved badly when they learned their sons had AIDS and tried to make all the decisions without taking into account what their sons may have told their best friends.
Convinced Tommy had Jimmy’s best interests at heart, Jeff promised to consult a lawyer to make sure Jimmy’s wishes would be respected no matter what happened. Then the three spent the rest of the evening chatting.
At the end of the evening Jeff volunteered to drive Tommy back to his place in northwest Washington. The two talked a bit about the story on the drive home and also discussed Jimmy’s health.
Tonight’s chapter, which I’ve now posted, picks up the following Monday evening with Tommy interviewing Jimmy. It takes a different form than most chapters, using a question and answer format that will allow me to recap the story as whole and fill in some missing details about what happened after Jimmy left Washington.