Rolling with the Changes: Egg Roll Redux

People complain that the White House Egg Roll invitation extended to the gay and lesbian families is just a symbolic gesture, but symbols are powerful.
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On Monday, my wife, Colleen and I will bring our daughters Ella, 6, and Zelda, 2, to the White House to participate in the annual Easter Egg Roll. We've been to the Egg Roll before, but this year is different. This year we, and other gay and lesbian families, are being welcomed onto the White House lawn as invited guests. It's quite a change.

Four years ago Margaret Spellings, the Secretary of Education at the time, strong-armed PBS into pulling an episode of Postcards from Buster, a kids' program highlighting cultural and geographic diversity through the exploration of the lives of real children. Diversity was all well and good until this particular episode introduced a family with two moms -- something to which Spellings felt young children should not be exposed.

As lesbians, Colleen and I had watched as our community became a favorite wedge issue. As mothers, though, we were not prepared to have the head of our nation's educational system sending the message that our daughter should keep her family in the closet. We'd grown complacent over the years of attacks on our community, but now they were messing with Ella, and that was not okay.

We wanted Ella, and all kids from LGBT families, to feel that they could be open about and proud of their families, and that is where the Egg Roll came in. We realized that organizing a group of our families to attend as a visible group would not only be a wonderful experience for our kids, but would be a great way to introduce our families to people who had heard about us more than seen us, and for some of whom I think we were not quite real.

With Family Equality Council (then called Family Pride) spearheading the effort, about 100 gay and lesbian families walked onto the White House lawn in the spring of 2006, sporting rainbow leis. There we were -- undeniably real, rather wet, very happy to be there, and showing up for millions to see everywhere from local newspapers and the Internet to the evening news and CNN.

A lot has changed in the last few years. We now have a Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who has expressed his commitment to making schools safe for every student, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Marriage equality is spreading throughout New England and making its way into the heartland. There is obviously still a long way to go, and the passage of Proposition 8 will surely not be the last setback that we face.

I've heard people complain that the invitation extended to the gay and lesbian families by the Obama administration is just a symbolic gesture, but symbols are powerful. This one sends the message that at the very highest levels, our families are acknowledged and appreciated as part of the diversity of families that make this country great.

Sure, I wish that the administration was spearheading the repeal of DOMA and DADT. I wish that President Obama was speaking out in favor of marriage equality. But I think it's a bit of a chicken and egg issue. Does society change in response to the signals sent by legislative changes, or do changes in people's attitudes push forward legislation? I think it's a little bit of chicken and a little bit of egg, and this Monday is a day to celebrate the egg (roll).

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