In an effort organized by the DC gay-rights group Family Pride Coalition, over 100 lesbian and gay families attended the annual White House Egg Roll for the first time in its 130-year history yesterday, wearing rainbow-colored leis to show their solidarity. Children accompanied by their parents rolled Easter eggs through the grass with long-handled spoons, dyed eggs, and hobnobbed with their favorite cartoon characters, such as Clifford the Big Red Dog and Arthur from PBS.
New York University Professor Colleen Gillespie and her partner, computer programmer Alisa Surkis, contacted Family Pride with their idea for LGBT families to participate visibly in this year’s Egg Roll. Although there had been some concern that the White House might declare the Egg Roll invitation-only after getting wind of Family Pride’s plans, event organizers stood by their statement that “all families are welcome to attend.” Said Gillespie yesterday in an interview with Ms. magazine, “We felt very welcome – people expressed that they were glad to be a part of history by being there with us.”
Originally held on the US Capitol grounds, the annual Egg Roll first took place on the White House lawns in 1878 under President Hayes. In 1953, Mamie Eisenhower noticed that there were no African-American children participating in the festivities, and made sure that the Egg Roll was open to all races beginning the following year. Today’s LGBT showing is possibly the biggest Egg Roll milestone since then. “The White House Egg Roll is a long-standing American tradition, and for the first time Americans were able to see that gay and lesbian families were participating,” Family Pride Coalition executive director Jennifer Chrisler told Ms. magazine yesterday.