Toward Passage (1986–1990)

While we pay tribute to those who have died—only some of whose names we know—we should adopt this legislation in honor of, and with hope for, those people who are now living with AIDS and HIV.

—Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA)

On the morning of May 16, 1990, as the Senate prepared to debate, the Senate Chaplain Reverend Richard C. Halverson, D.D. noted in his morning prayer that “rarely will the Senate be called upon to deal with an issue more complicated by prejudice, fear, and emotion, nor more presently or potentially destructive, than the issue of AIDS.”

Debates on procedural matters during the previous 2 days highlighted the intensity of emotions on the issue. Whatever the tenor of the debate, though, the outcome that morning was a forgone conclusion––even to the bill’s strongest opponent, Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina. In speaking against the bill the day before, he noted that “Yes, this bill will pass, no question about it.”

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