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By Bob Roehr
WASHINGTON – The South Lawn of the White House glistened emerald green from the rain and the temperature was downright chilly, but that did not dampen the spirits of the LGBT families who were among the 15,000 people participating in the annual Easter Egg Roll on Monday, April 17.
“We had a really good time, it was a lot of fun,” said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition, which coordinated LGBT family participation. She attended with her wife Cheryl Jacques and their four-year-old twins Tim and Tom. The Massachusetts residents are married.
“I think we helped people see that gay and lesbian people are raising children. And we, like all families, want to do really fun, amazing things with our kids like the White House Egg Roll.”
Family Pride’s participation sprang from the grassroots after an episode of the PBS kids’ show “Postcards from Buster,” in which Buster the animated bunny visited a lesbian couple in Vermont who were raising children. News of the forthcoming episode evoked opposition from social conservatives and Education Secretary Margaret Spelling called it inappropriate for children. PBS pulled the episode.
“That left us feeling vulnerable, was our daughter supposed to pretend that she didn’t hve two moms?” Colleen Gillespie, a research professional at New York University, told the Los Angeles Times. “We exist and want to participate in public events.”
And so they hatched a plan for LGBT families to attend the Egg Roll, with Family Pride taking a lead role. “So many people don’t ever have a chance to see our families and this was a way to let them do that,” Chrisler said. Their participation was planned not as a protest but as a celebration.
The event is free but tickets are required and were distributed on a first come basis on Saturday morning. Family Pride joined other veterans of the event who camped out by the visitors center on the Ellipse the night before in order to get tickets. “I was out all night on Friday night,” Chrisler said.
Then there was another line on Monday morning as people were let on to the White House lawn in groups of about 250. “The rain wasn’t too bad in the morning,” she said. “But just as we were headed into the holding area prior to the lawn itself, it just poured. It was wet and it was cold. Most of our people got soaked.” The members of Family Pride all wore rainbow Hawaiian leis to increase their visibility.
“Once we got there, it really just became about having a good time. The kids had a blast,” said Cathy Renna. The former spokesman for GLAAD was there with her partner and seven month old daughter. “The toddlers just went nuts.”
Chrisler says, “The reaction [from straight couples] was overwhelmingly positive. At the end of the day, everyone who was there was focused on one thing and that was their kids. That was exactly how we wanted the day to go.”
She was “stunned by the press coverage. At the end of the day, we just wanted to take our kids to the Egg Roll, and we wanted people to know that we were there. Visibility is an important issue for our community. There are between 6 and 8 million [LGBT couples] raising children in this country. That is all we were trying to do, visually represent ourselves.”