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The Great White House Easter Egg Roll Controversy

or How Two Moms Came to Believe in the Easter Bunny

By Alisa Surkis and Colleen Gillespie

The Great White House Easter Egg Roll Controversy

Colleen, Ella & Alisa

© Cathy Renna
By Alisa Surkis and Colleen Gillespie
(reprinted with permission)

It was anticlimactic when our family finally made it onto the White House lawn – moving and great fun and wonderfully anticlimactic. There we were, deciding whether to bring Ella to roll a dyed egg right away, or to stop off to get her picture taken with Clifford the Big Red Dog first. This was what it came down to after months of planning and controversy, after seemingly endless questions from the media, after explaining over and over and over again that wearing rainbow leis while taking our children to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll was not a protest, not a politicization of the event, not anything more than making our families visible so that people could see that we are real families. We decided to stop by Clifford first.

White House Easter Egg Roll

A while back, we took our plan to organize a large group of LGBT families to attend the White House Egg Roll to the Family Pride Coalition and they immediately accepted, then secured over a dozen other groups to help. Once our plan became public, there were some who said that we were going to borrow children, wave signs, and scream protests, and that we should be banned from the event. Then there were those who took a more moderate line -- of course we should be able to attend, but why did we have to wear the rainbow leis? Why did we have to set ourselves apart, rather than just blending in with everyone else? To answer that question, we have to go back to another bunny – Buster.

Buster the Bunny Started it All

The Great White House Easter Egg Roll Controversy of ‘06 all started with Buster, a cartoon rabbit. A little over a year ago, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings put the qabash on an episode of the children’s show Postcards from Buster because the kids profiled happened to have two moms. The whole point of the show was to promote diversity, to show Buster visiting families of all kinds – all kinds except one, that is. Spellings had, in effect, told hundreds of thousands of children – including our daughter Ella -- to be ashamed of their families. The family profiled on Buster wasn’t wearing rainbow leis, or doing anything else to stand out. They were, just like all the other families on the show, introducing themselves and their lives, to the viewers.

We Won't Be Invisible

We were being asked to make ourselves invisible in order to allow people to pretend -- to themselves and to their children – that we weren’t families at all. Given a choice between accommodating adults who were uncomfortable with our families and creating an atmosphere where our children could be open about and proud of their families, what kind of a parent would I be if I didn’t choose the latter?

Rainbow Leis and All

So we went to the White House Egg Roll wearing our rainbow leis. We were herded from line to tent to tent to line and finally onto the White House lawn. Other than a small group of protesters well away from where we were, we didn’t encounter one negative comment or angry look. We wondered if the other parents there – those not wearing the rainbow leis – were just as relieved to find that, rather than shouting and waving signs – we were trying to keep our kids from melting down with the long wait, making emergency diaper changes and potty runs, and finally, enjoying all the great activities and the wonderful family atmosphere on the White House lawn.

All in all, I’d say that it was a pretty great day, and one that Ella and her mommies will remember for the rest of their lives.

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