One of the joys of serving in Congress is to experience moments when your hard work is actually enacted into law. You celebrate each little step along the way - a hearing, an amendment, positive floor action, the other chamber moving on your legislation, the conference committee coming to an agreement. Sometimes the dance of legislation can be long and frustrating. As a result, there's nothing like that feeling of finally passing a bill and having it signed by the president. No better feeling, perhaps, than being there to witness it.
Today, after too many years of delay, President Obama signed into law a bill that makes it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation.
A little while ago I hopped on my bike and made the ride up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House to celebrate the signing into law of the Hate Crimes legislation. I noticed on this ride that one of my colleagues, Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-5), also made the trek to executive mansion via bicycle.
While I've experienced the thrill of being onstage next to the president when he signed my legislation, this is one of those rare occasions when I was happier to step back and watch President Obama put pen to paper surrounded by allies and people who have sacrificed so much to pass this vital bill.
Seeing my good friend, great Oregonian, and co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign Terry Bean front and center gave me such satisfaction. He represents so many friends and allies who sacrificed so much, worked so hard, and who represented the people who had suffered so surrounding the President.
Although Hate Crimes legislation is something I believe in and have worked strongly for, it seemed wrong to be sitting in the White House watching this historic and emotional moment without those at home who have worked so hard for this important measure. I wished they could have been there in my stead, but sitting back, taking this in, watching the spotlight shine where it belonged - on the people from the trenches of the GLBT community - was a profound reminder that in the dance of legislation, sometimes the harder, more controversial measures have as their champions not members of the House or Senate, but eloquent, determined, focused and ultimately victorious people from the community who refuse to give up.