Change the World

How the Gays Stole Easter: Remembering the 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll

On a rainy morning in 2006, dozens of LGBTQ families participated in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll in a show of visibility

On a rainy April morning in 2006, dozens of gay and lesbian families descended on the nation's capital. But they weren't there to protest. They were dressed in their Sunday best, ready to participate in a longstanding American family tradition: the White House Easter Egg Roll.


LGBTQ advocacy might be better remembered when it involves late night dance parties outside the homes of politicians, or when our political opponents are "glitter bombed" during speaking engagements. These actions speak to some of the best parts of our community; if we have to fight for our rights, we might as well have fun while doing it.

But back in 2006, the gay and lesbian parents assembled on the grounds of the White House on Easter Monday were testing a simple truth about our community: just living our lives—out and proud—has always been our most radical act.

Kyle Turner plays with daughter, Emma, while waiting for tickets to the 2006 White House Egg Roll. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The largest and most famous Egg Roll has taken place in Washington D.C. since at least the mid 1800s. But originally, the festivities took place on the Capital grounds. After a particularly rowdy Egg Roll in 1876 left the lawns of the Capitol decimated, however, lawmakers decided to pass one of the more insignificant pieces of legislation in American history: the Turf Protection Act.

The purpose of the law, aimed squarely at the Easter Egg Roll, was “to prevent any portion of the Capitol grounds and terraces from being used as play-grounds." When President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill into law, he devastated the area's children and became the closest the Easter holiday has to a Grinch-like figure.

Two years later, when President Rutherford B. Hayes came to office, the Egg Roll found a savior in First Lady Lucy Hayes who decided to revive the tradition. Instead of rolling eggs on Capital grounds, however, she invited children to the lawns of the White House, where it has taken place every year since.

Over the years, the White House Easter Egg Roll has grown in size and importance. Each new administration, it seems, seeks to outdo the last. The Carters added a circus; the Reagans one-upped them with Broadway performers. The Obamas, who invited Beyoncé and Jay Z to make a surprise appearance last year, will be the toughest act to follow yet.

Today, the White House Easter Egg Roll is one of the hottest tickets in town, so much so that last year, 37,000 available tickets were handed out via public lottery. Back in 2006, however, tickets were still distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, prompting many thousands of families to camp out overnight on the streets of D.C. to secure their spot.

And it was this peculiarity of the event—thousands of parents sleeping in tents overnight like tweens at a Justin Bieber concert—that inspired the idea for the “gay invasion."

In 2005, Colleen Gillespie, a professor at New York University, camped out with her partner to obtain tickets to that year's Egg Roll. She was struck by the easy camaraderie that formed among the other parents in line, which gave her a crazy idea: what if she could get hundreds of LGBTQ families to join her next year? What a perfect opportunity, she figured, for people to get to know gay and lesbian families.

She proposed her idea to Family Equality Council, a resource organizations for LGBTQ parents (then known as the Family Pride Coalition) who in turn put the request out to its members. The following year, dozens of families answered the call.

Kyle Turner was among the gay parents who camped out for the evening in 2006. After sending his partner, James, home to tuck in their 6-year-old daughter, Emma, he stayed up amiably chatting with the other parents. While it was certainly impactful to have so many gay and lesbian parents in line, he said, no gay parent seemed to think of his or her own presence as part of a “protest."

"It was just a really nice opportunity to come together with other parents," Kyle said, noting he often had more in common with straight people with kids than gays without them. "That's what was really cool about it."

But in the media, and in the culture wars—which were still raging strong in the mid 2000s—the presence of gay and lesbian parents at one of the country's longest running American family traditions would prove more controversial.

“They thought we were trying to infiltrate or something," Kyle said, reflecting back. “Well, if that's what you think, I guess let's infiltrate and we'll show you what we're all about."

Dominic and Rolf, with son Cyrus, at the 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll

The next day, early on Easter Monday morning, Dominic Russoli walked with his partner, Rolf, and 6-year-old son, Cyrus, towards the security checkpoint on the White House grounds. Dozens of other LGBTQ families walked alongside him.

“Here they come!" one of the guards said loudly, to no one in particular, as they approached.

“I remember laughing at that," Dominic said. “Here come the gays! I mean, what did he think we were going to do? Steal the drapes?"

Family Equality Council had alerted White House organizers of their plans to attend the Egg Roll, and made clear they had no intentions of being disruptive. The only thing that would differentiate them from any other family, they assured, would be rainbow leis draped around their necks.

“I had lived in Washington D.C. for 15 or 20 years by that point but had never been on the grounds of the White House," Dominic recalled. “It really wasn't meant to be a protest. Honestly, we just wanted to enjoy the attractions."

Still, dozens of news cameras greeted Dominic and the other LGBTQ families, asking their reasons behind staging the “protest." Their participation in the event had caused a “controversy," according to the New York Times, and was likened to an “invasion" in the Guardian.

All this when the LGBTQ families in attendance merely participated like any other. "We just helped our kids pick up their Easter eggs, like everyone else, and helped them go through the attractions on the grounds," Kyle recalled. "The normalcy of it all was probably what made an impact."

President Bush and the Easter Bunny during the 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In today's world, it can be hard to remember why a group of LGBTQ families peacefully attending an event at the White House would be cause for such spectacle. But while the 2006 Easter Egg Roll was only 11 years ago, it might as well have been the Paleozoic Era as far as LGBTQ rights are concerned.

We can now marry, adopt, and serve as foster parents in every state in the country. In 2006, during the waning days of the Bush Administration, only Massachusetts allowed same-sex couples to marry. Seven states were considering legislation to ban LGBTQ adoption. Six others codified discrimination into their state constitutions by limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

The visibility of LGBTQ families, in particular, was practically nonexistent; this was still years before Modern Family began beaming a lovable gay family into living rooms across America.

“I don't know if there was ever a point prior to Easter Egg Roll where lesbian and gay families made such an effort to be so visible in such a large group," Dominic said. “At that time, 11 years ago, it really did seem momentous."

And while the show of visibility may have not have budged the Bush White House, it certainly made an impression on his successor: in 2009, even as he was still “evolving" on the question of gay marriage, President Obama announced he would be reserving over 100 tickets to the Easter Egg Roll for LGBTQ families.

No invasion necessary.

Kyle and James, with daughter Emma and a friend, middle, at the 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll

If a large group of gay and lesbian families made such a public display of visibility at the White House tomorrow, it might well be met with a shrug. We owe this to the breakneck speed at which we achieved progress under the Obama administration.

Still, we have so much left to do. Parents can be legally denied housing or fired from their jobs on account of their sexuality or gender identity in many states. We are often unfairly discriminated against at adoption and foster care agencies. But thanks to eight years of near constant progress, we could be forgiven for thinking it was just a matter of time before these issues, too, would be resolved.

But here we find ourselves in 2017 facing a situation practically no one could have envisioned: Melania Trump, not Bill Clinton, will be hosting the White House Easter Egg Roll this year. (That is, if the Trumps can scramble in time to pull it off.) Of course, it's too soon to tell what a Trump presidency will mean for LGBTQ families. But it seems safe to assume progress will be stalled, at best, over the next four years.

So maybe a mass gathering of LGBTQ families in 2017 isn't such a quaint idea after all. Time to break out the rainbow leis again?

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Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

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Change the World

This Gay Dad's Life Changed "Unexpectedly" Thanks to His Son's Love of Sports

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund writes how trading "Broadway for baseball" helped him form straight male friendships in an essay for Shondaland

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund, a gay dad of a 7-year-old son with his husband Jack, recently contributed a thoughtful essay for Shondaland that explores the unintended, but positive, consequence of his son's love of sports: straight male friends.

He writes, "One night in late May, seven dads stood in a bar singing "Happy Birthday" to me. Each of them were straight. How did this happen?"

As gay dads, many of us who have spent a lifetime avoiding anything that even remotely looked like an athletic league thanks to our experiences with homophobia in the world of team sports growing up. As dads, though, we're often forced back into these spaces to be supportive of our kids. (We've brought you similar essays in the past, most notably John Hart's funny piece about his sudden turn into a hockey dad).

But while many of us find the world of children's sports much more tolerable today, given the (reasonably) secure adult men that we've grown into, Bradley seems to have done the unthinkable: make friends with other (straight) dads involved in his son's athletic leagues.

"With Lucas regularly playing soccer, basketball, and baseball, sports now make up a large part of my weekly routine," Bradley writes. "And as it's turned out, a host of heterosexual dad comrades have been with me every goal, basket, and home run of the way." One dad educates Bradley on the existence of something called "turf shoes." Another on whether his son was better suited to be a midfielder or defender.

"If I ever worried I'd be alienated in the world of sideline-dads," Bradley concludes, "those feelings have long lapsed."

Read the great essay in full here.




Change the World

Doctor Refuses to Let Gay Dads Take Newborn Daughter Home, Citing Lack of 'Maternal Instincts'

Nick He says he and his husband got a crash course in discrimination against LGBTQ people the day his daughter Phoebe as born.

People Magazine's How I Parent section explores the "ins and outs of modern day parenting with moms and dads from all over the world." Recently, the magazine profiled Nick He, who is raising three daughters along with his husband Bryan Koehler, a gay dad family that we profiled on Gays With Kids last month.

In the profile, Nick reveals that when his daughter Phoebe was first born at a hospital on Fresno, California, the dads weren't able to take her home right away because they were two men, and therefore weren't equipped to deal with their daughter's health issues. "He said that she had a heart murmur and since we didn't have "maternal instincts," we couldn't take our baby home yet and if we tried, he would call Child Protective Services," Nick said.

Fortunately, Phoebe was released to their care after only a day. But for Nick and Bryan, it was a quick lesson in discrimination facing many LGBTQ parents. "I am thrilled to have my own family, but I feel like there's still a lot of judgment in the world right now," Nick said in the profile.

Nick is also the author of a book titled "Two Dads and Three Girls" which explores many of these issues in more detail. Here's a quick trailer the dads created to promote the book:


Two Dads and Three Girls - Trailer www.youtube.com


Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Entertainment

Hate Group Boycotts 'Toy Story' for Featuring Lesbian Moms—Hilarity Ensues on Twitter

"One Million Moms" announced a boycott of the latest Toy Story movie for *very briefly* featuring lesbian moms. Twitter's response was swift and hilarious.

One Million Moms, which is affiliated with the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association, recently called for a boycott of Toy Story 4 for (very, very briefly) featuring (interracial!) lesbian moms in the animated film. The angry, hateful moms affiliated with this group must have watched the film VERY closely because you could easily blink and miss the moment that apparently "blindsided" viewers.

The Internet reacted with a collective facepalm to the ridiculous boycott. Here are some of our favorite hilarious Twitter reactions to the hateful group:

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Travel

The Golden Age of Vacationing With Kids

WARNING: BUCKLE UP, YOU'RE ABOUT TO READ WAY TOO MANY GOLDEN GIRLS REFERENCES.

Ever feel like you need a vacation from your family vacation? For years, we did too. But I'm happy to report that we don't anymore. So what caused the big shift? I'll get to that. First, a little background.

For years, taking our son Max on road trips had its fair share of, shall I say, challenges. From New York City to London to San Francisco to Vegas… we traveled down the road and back again. And while we made wonderful memories along the way… these trips weren't entirely wonderful. Whether it was Max's inflexible sleep schedule, his limited food palate, potty training, his disinterest in walking or his inability to fully express himself, it never quite felt like a real vacation because we never got to actually relax. But now that Max is almost nine years old, we decided to give it another go… and so we booked a much-needed respite in Florida with one goal in mind — cheesecake — okay, two goals: we wanted to catch our breath!

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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