Thursday, April 06, 2006Well I guess it can't always be bad news. Thanks to John for finding this one!
Laura Bush keeps Easter egg roll open to all
If she absolutely had to pick her very favorite part of her new Easter outfit, Ella Surkis Gillespie would point to the purple ribbons on her yellow dress.
For the 3-year-old, Easter can't come fast enough. She is hoping to be among the lucky youngsters in the annual White House Easter egg roll.
And, thanks to some pretty impressive advance planning by her two mommies, Colleen Gillespie and Alisa Surkis of Brooklyn, N.Y., Ella won't be the only child with gay parents who'll be scooting a colorful egg with a spoon on the White House lawn.
"As a parent, you want everything for your child," says Colleen Gillespie. "We want this event to tell our daughter that she is as welcome on the White House lawn as any other kid in the world."
It turns out, First Lady Laura Bush agrees.
"Mrs. Bush is the overseer of the event, and all families are welcome to attend," her spokesman Peter Watkins told me when asked about the hundreds of gay families who hope to roll eggs April 17.
So far, 250 gay families plan to go. (Connect with them at familypride.org.) Everyone will begin lining up on Friday night, April 14, for tickets handed out the next morning. (All families must include someone under 8.) At the Monday roll, gay parents and their kids will wear rainbow leis.
The idea for gay families to attend dates from January 2005, when Education Secretary Margaret Spellings went bananas over the kids' TV show "Postcards from Buster" because Buster the Bunny met a Vermont child with two mommies. In an act of cowardice, PBS didn't distribute the episode nationally.
Colleen Gillespie was outraged that the head of public education had acted as if gay families were unmentionable. Suddenly, Gillespie thought of taking Ella to the egg roll: "We would participate in this big historic family event on the White House lawn as a way of claiming our place."
Ella and her moms got rained out last year. The moms then called the Family Pride Coalition to urge gay parents from all over the country to attend this year.
Gillespie says, "We continue to hear politicians using our families as ways to score political points. We figured if we could get 100 or 200 gay families at the egg roll, Middle America could get a chance to see us."
Egg rolling at the White House dates back to 1878, when a band of unstoppable kids was turned away from the Capitol.
"A child whose identity is unknown rallied the egg rollers and led them in a march on the White House. Here the children were granted permission by President Hayes to continue their frolic," a 1960 press release notes. World War II halted the custom. Mamie Eisenhower revived it in 1953.
When Eisenhower noticed black children looking through the gates as white kids rolled eggs, she declared all kids would be welcome in 1954.
Laura Bush should be applauded for keeping the welcome mat out.
Her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, also quietly countered anti-gay hostility -- by visiting AIDS babies and writing in 1990 to Paulette Goodman of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays: "I firmly believe that we cannot tolerate discrimination against any individuals or groups in our country."
Wholesome American families come in as many shades and varieties as Easter eggs. Long may they roll!