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Rolling eggs

Rolling eggs


Gay families who showed up en masse with their children at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday were greeted with one loud bullhorn and hundreds of welcoming smiles

As protests go, it was pretty tame: hundreds of children, clad in their ruffled, buttoned-up Sunday best, accompanied by their moms and dads. They had come to the White House lawn on Monday for the annual Easter Egg Roll, a day that passed like many in the event's 128-year history, as kids pushed eggs with large spoons in a race along the grass before watching magic shows and meeting the Easter bunny.

This year about 200 of the approximately 1,600 moms and dads attending wore rainbow-colored leis to identify themselves as gay parents and to show the country that they "are families too." At the periphery of the event, five placard-toting men protested what they and several antigay groups described as a "protest" by gay parents. "God will not be mocked," one yelled into a bullhorn. "Homosexuality is a sin!" But his words were drowned out by lilting carousel music pumping from nearby speakers.

The gay families, meanwhile, said they felt welcomed by most of the other families, event volunteers, and White House staff. "I heard one of the other dads saying that he thought it added some color to the day," said Chevy Chase, Md., resident Terrance Heath, who came with his partner, Rick Imirowicz, and their 3-year-old son, Parker. James Abbott and Daniel Gri of Oakton, Va., who came with sons Caleb, 8, and Alfred, 6, said they were greeted warmly by the straight moms and dads, and by White House staffers. "They said, 'I'm glad you're here,' " Gri recalled.

The couples heard about the event through the gay rights group Family Pride Coalition, which organized the large turnout of gay families. Some conservative groups accused the FPC of using a kids' event to make a political statement, and their participation drew worldwide media attention.

But Heath said he and Imirowicz saw the egg roll as a chance to spend a fun day with Parker, and that educating other families was an added benefit. "People have a lot of misconceptions about what our families are like, so any opportunity we have to be visible as a family is important," he said. "If we're not visible, they can believe anything they're told about us."

Jennifer Chrisler, FPC's executive director, said the day was focused on family fun, not politics. "People were saying that we were taking a kids' event and making it political, but we were just taking a kids' event and taking our kids to it," she said.

Chrisler attended with her partner, former Human Rights Campaign executive director Cheryl Jacques, and twin sons Tim and Tom. The twins, like most of the kids, seemed oblivious to the significance of the event. "I found two eggs--an orange and a blue," Tom boasted.

And despite chilly temperatures and a downpour, the event was much like any other White House egg roll. Sarah Kline and Dorothy Harem, two sisters who bused in a carload of children--including their own--from their neighborhood in Shenandoah, Va., seemed nonplussed by the presence of gay families. "The TV had a lot to say about it, but we didn't notice anything that was different this year," said Harem, a three-year veteran of the event. "It doesn't bother me at all."

John Christmas, a dad from the Poconos in Pennsylvania, who was attending the egg roll for the third time with his son and daughter, said anyone who braved the ticket line--for which parents must camp out the night before--should be welcomed. Others were angry at the antigay protesters. Molly Taylor, who travels to Washington from Auburn, Mass., every year for the egg roll, confronted one of the demonstrators, engaging him in a heated argument as her two sons and husband watched. "How do you know?" she replied angrily as one of the protesters denounced the evils of homosexuality into his megaphone.

Taylor said that although she disagreed with the antigay contingent, she respected their right to express their opinions. She just wished they hadn't done it around children. "It really is lousy, with all the kids here," she said. "At an activity that's geared toward children, I think it's sad that that's how they deliver the message. I mean, who wants to listen to that?"

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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Emily Heil