Copyright © 2017-2018 Art West. All Rights Reserved.
I sat next to Wayne in staff meetings and all we had met with, so far this week, had been nice, conscientious people whose job was to make the country better, after enduring the debacle of the previously "elected" president who had been forced to resign because of the problems he had created for the USA within the world community. His entire administration had been released from their positions, Wayne had felt it prudent to retain at least some of the previous appointments, and he was gradually replacing those with appointments of his own, as in my own appointment.
The beginnings of these staff meetings were the usual "he said….","she said….." railings about a few of the hangers-on from the previous administration. The next hour we would not only make suggestions about how to rectify the damage that was being done, but who would be better in the position. Many times, we broke into subgroups to deal with these recommendations and we often had a security check run through the FBI to see what might shake out even before a request for an interview was made.
One of Wayne's most popular decisions had been to immediately rescind the executive order banning transgendered people from serving in the military. Although the reversal happened back in June, the court cases, against the former president, still clogged the courts. The allied group of lawyers for the complainants were demanding a settlement of one billion dollars and 17 of the former president's hotels and golf courses in the newly formed group-action case that consolidated all the suits against him, from servicemen and women. The Supreme Court was due to hear the case during the first court session in October.
He had also passed, by a huge margin, a bill that allowed the injured party to sue anyone refusing them service based on their sexuality. The crime would be classified as a hate crime and the penalties if found guilty were starting at 20 years imprisonment.
Immigration bans had been lifted, and new arrangements had been made where anyone wanting to immigrate to the US could have a background check performed that would lead to emigration. Relations with Mexico and Canada had been repaired and all three countries benefited from the joint efforts in assuring all who could, would have the opportunities to succeed in their adopted country. By the end of September, the lads were doing well in school and Kevin and Bill were excelling in all their classes. They spent 4 nights a week, sleeping together, studying together and taking advantage of the social activities both relating to their school and to high school students everywhere. The media loved Kevin and he didn't go anywhere Bill wasn't included. It was apparent they were still going strong, as were Kevin's dad and I. He stayed over at our house a few times during the month and I stayed at the White House whenever I could. I would not say we used the Secret Service as babysitters, because a team had to be with Kevin no matter where he was, and the guys were not children, they were young men who were 17 and a half. However, they couldn't leave the house or have friends over unless they had both parents permission and Wayne or I was home.
Our love for each other was getting harder to hide, but Wayne and I had a goal, and that involved waiting until he was officially out of office. After the Supreme Court sat in October and ruled against the former president, Wayne started to get even more affectionate and twice his secretary had caught us kissing in the Oval Office. She was surprised, but told us she had a gay sister that was now married to her longtime girlfriend and the whole family stood behind them. She hadn't been at fault in any way, we had just let our hormones get the better of us. We told her about our plans to marry when Wayne's term was up and she thought we were nuts.
She told us that in this day and age it was just not the right thing to do. To help everyone concerned with the "GAY" issue, everyone from the kids kicked out and abandoned by their families to the homophobic preachers. There was hope for the kids and retribution for the homophobic. She asked if we were ashamed of our love and we both told her "no way". "Then what the heck are you waiting for?" She asked. We thanked her for her input and we promised to try not to embarrass her with our displays of affection. She reminded us we were adults and she hadn't seen anything that any two engaged people shouldn't be allowed to do. She also told us that we wouldn't be the first couple where one was the leader of his country. She reminded us that the leaders of Iceland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, and Serbia have all been gay in the last few years, if not right now. She had certainly given us lots to think about.
Our lovemaking that night was especially full of love for each other and in the morning staff meeting, Wayne brought up the issue of gay marriage, and he wanted a report about how the person holding the office of President being gay could affect his ability to govern effectively. There was silence for about 2 minutes and I was about to reach under the table to hold Wayne's hand when the 20-30 staffers stood and started clapping. I was starting to rise to join them when Wayne held my shoulders and when our heads were at an even level he winked at me, and I winked back and as he kissed me our arms went around each other and we held the embrace longer than we had held the kiss. The clapping had gotten louder and there were a few cheers as well. Wayne then looked around the room and reminded them they had signed secrecy contracts and hopefully, their combined report would allow us to make further announcements in the future. He and I both thanked all of them for their support and I told them yes, we wanted answers, but we wanted a truthful and insightful report, not something thrown together to make us feel good.
The meeting broke up and a couple of the staffers came over to us and either congratulated us or admitted they were also gay. By Thanksgiving week, the report was presented at the last meeting that was held before Wayne and I and the boys went to Camp David for the long holiday weekend. The report was summarized on the first page; the rest of the report was the research, which backed up the conclusions reached on the first page. The report stated that initially, Wayne's approval rating would drop about 25 to 30 points, but within two days, he could expect to see a surge to about 40 points above where he stood right now. Should he marry in office he could expect the highest approval rating in the history of the presidency. He could expect 100% cooperation from his own party, and 75 to 80% cooperation from the opposition for any reasonable legislation proposed. The report went on and on, including how America would be perceived by other nations, but there was no reason to think that other nations would treat them any differently than how they did right now. There was a lively, and supportive, conversation going on around the big table and as they talked Wayne made to remove his engagement ring from the chain around his neck, so I did the same to mine and I placed his on his ring finger as he placed mine on my ring finger.
Jim was the President's agent that morning and he was the only one capturing history in the making, He took snaps of a sitting male president exchanging engagement rings with his future husband. He had tears in his eyes as he started showing us the pictures and I told him to go and get himself engaged to Jake, and soon! The President told him it was an executive order. So Jim was replaced with Dave and Jim went to the boy's school where Jake was back on duty assigned to Kevin's detail. They were engaged a half hour later.
Wayne then gave his staff one more project; when would be the best time for us to marry, and how. He asked them to determine for us if a small, private ceremony, say at the chapel at Camp David, or something on a grander scale, maybe here at the White House in the Rose Garden. We really didn't care, but we wanted to do it right for the country, to help erase some of the negativity created by the past president. He asked for recommendations to be presented after the Thanksgiving break, but to remember, this was not a subject for idle conversation, this was a family matter and we both thought of them as family.
The upshot of all this was we met with the staff after the holiday and we then took their recommendations to our boys and asked what they thought about the dates and venues recommended. As there was no general consensus among the staff we placed a lot of weight on what the boys thought and the four of us came up with a Valentine's date, as that would allow time for guests to make travel arrangements and those that needed to take time off from their work to be able to attend. This would also allow the events staff to gear up and turn their talents from state dinners and functions to a wedding ceremony and reception, a much more festive event.
We decided to go public during Wayne's Christmas address to the nation, usually just a minor televised address to the country by the President. This year he allowed it to be broadcast from the private quarters and Kevin, Bill, and I were in the family living room and there were images of all four of us putting finishing touches on the family Christmas tree and then Wayne sat on one of the sofas and addressed the nation, wishing them and their families a joyous Holiday season just as he was expecting to have with his family.
There were plenty of questions and a lot of speculation flying around the room at the next press briefing and the press secretary, a very qualified woman, who had enjoyed a morning TV news career for many years before joining Wayne's team, turned to the side and raised her eyebrows at Wayne and I. We both nodded to her and she turned to the press and announced that she would be turning the briefing over to the President and the First Fiancé, the President's personal adviser, Mr. John Travers. We walked to the podium where she gave us each a hug and a cheek kiss and we turned to face the press.
They were mostly curious about where we met, how and who proposed, when we planned to get married. One reporter from a pretty conservative paper wanted to know if I would still remain in my position and stay on the White House payroll. Wayne jumped in there and explained to the reporter that I had refused any pay from the White House since the day I had started. The salary I received was entirely donated to various charities around the country and would continue to be done so after our marriage. He said to this reporter that even if I never returned to my office I would always have the President's ear. There were several polite chuckles after he said that and the questions regained a happier tone after that. The reporter wasn't being confrontational, he was just asking questions I'm sure many around the country would want answers to. The reporter was actually very nice to us as we mingled for an "off the record" greeting after the press briefing was officially over and we invited him, a reporter for The Times, one representing The Advocate, and one each for Newsweek and Time to a "private" interview where several network cameramen and a reporter for each would interview us. The joint interview was held that same week, about two days later, and by then it was official, we were to be married on February 14TH on the White House lawn, just beyond the Rose Garden. The interviews went really well and PBS and ABC carried it live as we wanted the public to see that we weren't trying to hide anything from them, even though most of the stations would carry an abridged version, showing the full interview at a different time. The staff's predictions ran true and right after our original announcement there was a dip in Wayne's approval rating, but after the televised interview night, they skyrocketed to an unheard level of 99.7%! The entire staff at the next morning's meeting gave us another standing ovation as we, in turn, applauded their correct estimates of how the country would perceive us. Oh yeah, there were some naysayers, mostly on the part of ultra-conservative radio hosts and evangelical ministers, but for the most part, they were ignored. The huge surprise to us former Catholics was when an emissary of the Pope called on Wayne and related the private congratulations of the pontiff and his offer to fly over and perform the ceremony for us. The Archbishop acting for the Pope offered to make all the arrangements as far as performing the pre-cana counseling the church requires before marriage and we accepted most gratefully because this would open the door for thousands of gay couples to have their vows blessed in the church, which until now had not recognized gay marriage. The Archbishop told us that worldwide it could be more like hundreds of thousands of couples we would be helping, as well as the priesthood.
There had been speculation about who was going to stand up for us during the ceremony but we had already decided on the two who would always have our backs and that was Bill and Kevin. We would have military ushers in dress uniforms, both men, and women, and we chose to have the staff from Camp David included with the hundred or so troops that would line the outer aisles of the chairs to be set on the lawn. We would start our honeymoon at Camp David a day after the ceremony as the reception was to be held on the lawn under several joined pavilions, weather permitting, or inside in the State Dining room if not.
In January the political crisis centered in Caracas, Venezuela had reached a critical point with Maduro's armed forces mowing down mobs of protesters' right and left as they paraded down the streets and we held many meetings about these massacres and how to put a stop to him and his highly corrupt regime once and for all. Several undercover forces were sent into the country to gather intelligence and several countries contributed to these information gatherers. Two weeks into January, the reports were encouraging. There were thousands in the military who opposed Maduro and were waiting for a more realistic leader, and many were under the thumb of Maduro placed generals who coerced their men to perform these atrocities we'd been hearing about. Wayne asked me what could be done and I pondered his question and came up with a plan I thought might work.
He begged me not to take an active role in this, other than as an off-site commander of the troops used to thwart Maduro and I agreed, I wasn't going to put our future together in jeopardy. Actually, I wasn't planning any armed conflict. The plan was discussed with the commanders of the Special Forces divisions and the operatives they had in place in Caracas already and certain supplies were then placed at their disposal and on the Monday of the last week in January the plan went into effect. The first meal of the day served to the troops defending Maduro and the Presidential Palace were served a wonderful breakfast that included sleeping pills in the coffee, eggs, and bread. The same meal was prepared in the Palace kitchen for the entire staff there, including Maduro and his cronies. Once everything was quiet there, opposition troops protected the representatives of 7 South American countries as they went through the Palace room by room detaining the sleeping people in one of the state prisons until they awoke and their loyalties could be determined, if they were not already known. Maduro and his henchmen were placed in solitary cells and confined until a judicial tribunal or the World Court could hear their cases. There was massive rejoicing in the streets and order was being maintained by United Nations peacekeeping troops. Not one round of gunfire was heard the entire night.
With that crisis on the way to being resolved, Walt and I rejoiced with our staff and held an independence celebration there at the White House for the entire staff and dozens of foreign diplomats who had all been involved in one way or another. That night in bed, we found ourselves almost as giddy as we had on our first night together and we each brought the other off twice before we fell into a deep and restful sleep.
It was back to putting the finishing touches on our ceremony the next morning. The staff had a few surprises they were not going to tell us about, as we had asked, and all we were told was to think of the wedding in the movie Love Actually and we were prepared for just about anything. Several musical stars wanted the privilege of singing us up or down the aisle, so to speak, but it had been decided by all of us that we would pay the Marine band and chorus to do the honors, after all, Wayne was their Commander in Chief and we didn't want them to feel slighted in any way. It had been decided that we didn't want a big formal affair so it would be business dress for everyone with the exception of the Pope and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who would do the honors with the Pope at the actual time of the nuptials. We would be wed twice in the space of 5 minutes.
As I said before there were the naysayers, some members of the lunatic fringe who decried not only the wedding, but the use of the White House lawn to hold it on. Every threat was thoroughly investigated and as February 14th neared every crackpot letter writer and subversive had been placed under surveillance and their whereabouts had been documented and tracked. Every rooftop for blocks around had at least one, if not two, sharpshooters securing the area. Even the Potomac River had coast guard cutters in it, questioning any boat traffic they came across and securing the river's banks. The national monuments had extra security and there was a platoon of soldiers guarding the throngs at the live telecast being sent to 100 mega-screen monitors on the National Mall where organizers estimated the crowd who wanted to be there, in the anticipated 50-degree weather, to be in the hundreds of thousands. In all actuality, the crowd exceeded the crowds of Mr. Obama's and Mr. Trump's inaugurations combined by over 50 thousand. Several dozen more monitors were located and connected so almost everyone who showed up could witness history in the making, and tell their friends "they were there".
The night before the marriage ceremony, the Pope arrived in Washington and he had agreed to spend that night in the White House as our guest. The boys were quite thrilled to meet him and they spent some time conferring with him in Spanish after our evening meal and he seemed to have had a great talk with them and the three of them returned to the family living room arm in arm, chatting away like old friends. Pope Francis spent about two hours with Wayne and me and he told us in private that he had prayed for guidance from God on how to best lead the gay community back to the church and our wedding announcement had solidified his resolve that the church, in order to survive, had to accept the entire gay community back to the fold. He said to us that our meetings with the Archbishop had greatly impressed both him and the bishop and he was proud to be the one to marry us to each other. He told us he expected great things from us and our union.
The ceremony went off without a hitch. The security precautions were well tested by 10 militant anti-gay activists who had each taken some of their misguided followers to different venues across the city and tried to create some havoc. When confronted by two platoons of combined armed forces troops they soon changed their tune and retreated to their buses and vans only to find them totally stripped of their tires and engine parts by some thugs. Those were the only mischief related crimes in the city for the day. Odd, isn't it?
We walked toward each other walking across the front of the chairs lined up in front of the altar, Bill with me, of course, and Kevin with his father. We met in the middle and held hands throughout the service and even as we sat for the very brief, but profound sermon from the Pope. He called for world peace, of course, and for the inclusion of all members of the gay, lesbian, and transgendered people in the world to all religions of the world and that discrimination against the inclusive gay community was to be abolished worldwide. There was no place safe for hate in the human heart, or the blessed heart of Jesus. He pronounced us spouses and then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court did a very brief civil ceremony and proclaimed us wed, in the eyes of God, and of the courts of the land. We exchanged a brief kiss and shook the hand of the Chief Justice and we kissed the Pope's ring and turned to face our guests who by now were on their feet clapping. We each hugged our lad and then we exchanged them and hugged the other. Four in hand we moved to march up the center aisle formed by the chairs and a soloist from the Marine choir began to sing, OH HAPPY DAY from Sister Act. She started off slow and by the time we had passed the tenth of the hundred rows she had the full jazzy gospel version going with the full choir joining in. They were finished and had transitioned into ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE from Love Actually and here we all tightened hands as we knew the staff had set something up and sure enough we were serenaded by a male soloist from the choir and members of the Marine band and orchestra popped up with their instruments from various places in the seated crowd to play into the song. We chuckled until tears of great happiness ran down our cheeks as we finished our own wedding march.
We had to endure the receiving line right after the service as our walk down the aisle led us to the heated pavilions set up on the lawn and the two staffers standing right behind us kept us informed about who was coming toward us in line to extend their best wishes and congratulations. Of course many were readily identifiable to both or at least one of us so things did move on. I recognized almost all of the leaders of the free world and several of the current and former members of the House of Representatives and the Senate who had been invited. Almost all of these representatives had served with Wayne at one time or another in the House or Senate during his almost 30 years of public service. There were also 25 former members of Special Ops that I had served with as well as several former members of the Secret Service that had also served during my time there. They all had been invited to attend with their spouse or significant other and there were several same-sex couples in attendance among these groups.
Speaking of same-sex couples, the boys had been encouraged to invite friends and there was a bit of discussion about this since some of the people they were closest to at school were teachers and they felt odd just asking five of them, so the White House issued an invitation to each of the teachers at the school and the school administrators. The boys' invitees were the entire LGBT club they were members of. The groups were well interspersed throughout the pavilions and everyone told us what a great time they were all having as we wandered around the tents, greeting and meeting people. We did the first dance thing just to kick off the party and after that, it was a very fun party.
The reception lasted until midnight and we crashed in the master bedroom of the family quarters shortly after, totally entwined, but too exhausted for much more than kisses and terms of deep endearment before we fell asleep. The next day was spent with some last minute staff meetings to iron out anything critical before we left on our honeymoon at Camp David in the morning. The boys slept in, as was expected, but Wayne and I were up and about when one of the household staff knocked on our door and Wayne let the distraught woman in and he bade her to sit and tell us what had her so upset. She told us that sometime during the night three young children had been left at the service entrance at the side fence and the guards there hadn't found them until just an hour ago and they and some secret service agents were trying to get information from the children down in the kitchen right now, but the children were so scared and they were crying. I immediately went to her and asked her to come with us.
The three of us went to the big kitchen and approached the group of about ten agents, all in their dark suits, standing around the small staff table in the corner, Seated on three of the chairs were three young boys, about 7 to 10 years of age, who were clearly frightened and scared of the men and women who were peppering them with questions, not harshly, but with some determination none the less, trying to get some information from the boys as to who they were and who had dropped them off. I crouched down between two of them and Wayne did the same with the third and we asked the agents to back off and give us a few minutes alone with the boys.